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MeSH - Medical Subject Headings

The MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) is a polyhierarchical, concept-based thesaurus (keyword register) for the cataloguing of book and media collections, indexing of databases and creation of search profiles.

The updated German version of the MeSH can be downloaded for free from DIMDI downloadcenter; the updated original English version of the MeSH from the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) can be downloaded for free from the NLM website.

MEDLARS Centers as national partners for the MeSH

The MeSH is published by the NLM. The NLM collaborates worldwide with national institutions in foreign countries, which then act as MEDLARS Centers to ensure access to translations of the MeSH for that country. The NLM register of international MEDLARS Centers gives you more information on the distribution of the MeSH in other languages.

DIMDI is the MEDLARS Center for Germany.

Annual update of the MeSH database

The NLM updates the MeSH on an annual basis. DIMDI translates the NLM update into German. This is a bilingual version, since the corresponding English equivalents are included in addition to the German descriptors.

The current 2018 version of the MeSH contains the following numbers of descriptors:

  • 28.939 German Main Headings (preferred terms)
  • 28.939 English Main Headings
  • 66.949 German Entry Terms (synonyms)
  • 211.567 English Entry Terms

Original version vs. German translation

In order to preserve the character of the thesaurus and the keyword register, DIMDI translates the MeSH descriptors into German according to the American template.

For the German version, the main headings from the original version were translated 1:1. The main headings are supplemented with the common synonyms used in German-speaking countries. The fact that the number of German synonyms does not correspond to those in English is due to the different language areas and use.

The original version from the NLM includes a prefix with a multitude of annotations, references and definitions for the individual descriptors. This part is not included in the German translation. Therefore, when using the German MeSH intensively for cataloguing, indexing and creating search profiles, it is important to also always refer to the English edition for additional information.

External Information: