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Taxonomy vs. Ontology — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on April 30, 2024
Taxonomy organizes concepts hierarchically, primarily focusing on classification, whereas ontology defines relationships among entities, enhancing understanding of complex interrelations.
Taxonomy vs. Ontology — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Taxonomy and Ontology


Key Differences

Taxonomy arranges items or concepts in a hierarchical structure, often showing how categories relate through subordination. Ontology, on the other hand, goes further by specifying the types of relationships between categories and the nature of these relationships.
In taxonomy, the key function is classification, grouping similar items under broader categories systematically. Ontology, meanwhile, involves not just grouping but also defining the properties and rules that govern categories and their interrelations.
Taxonomy is typically simpler, using fewer types of relationships (such as "is a" or "part of"). Ontology is more complex, incorporating various relationship types like "associated with" or "belongs to," which offer a deeper level of detail.
The use of taxonomy is common in biology where organisms are classified into a pre-defined structure of kingdoms, phyla, and species. In contrast, ontology is widely used in data science and artificial intelligence to model data and enable systems to understand and process complex information.
Taxonomy often serves as a preliminary step in organizing knowledge, useful for educational and informational purposes. Ontology, however, plays a critical role in enabling technologies such as semantic web, data mining, and AI applications, providing a framework that supports reasoning about entities.

Comparison Chart


Classifies entities hierarchically
Defines entities and their interrelations


Simpler, fewer relation types
More complex, multiple relation types

Common Uses

Biological classification
Semantic web, AI, data integration

Relationship Types

Mainly "is a," "part of"
Includes "is a," "part of," "associated with"


Descriptive and inferential

Compare with Definitions


A scientific method in biology for naming and grouping organisms.
Linnaean taxonomy classifies humans in the Homo sapiens species.


A branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being.
Ontology explores concepts like existence, reality, and essence.


The practice of organizing concepts within a particular field.
A taxonomy of literary themes helps scholars analyze texts systematically.


A framework in computer science for data representation.
Ontology in AI facilitates complex decision-making processes.


A classification into more detailed groups.
Taxonomy in business categorizes expenses into fixed and variable.


A tool for knowledge management and information systems.
Business ontology helps organizations manage and utilize their knowledge assets.


A system for classifying things into ordered categories.
The animal kingdom's taxonomy divides creatures into classes like mammals and reptiles.


A model for describing the properties and relations of the entities in a particular domain.
Medical ontology categorizes diseases, symptoms, and treatments.


A hierarchical organization of ideas or items.
The library uses a taxonomy to organize books by genres and topics.


The study of categorical relationships in philosophy.
Ontology addresses questions about how entities are grouped and related.


The classification and naming of organisms in an ordered system that is intended to indicate natural relationships, especially evolutionary relationships.


Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into basic categories and which of these entities exist on the most fundamental level.


The science, laws, or principles of classification.


The branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being.


An ordered arrangement of groups or categories
A taxonomy of literary genres.


(Computers) A system for naming, classifying, and defining objects.


The science or the technique used to make a classification.


The branch of metaphysics that addresses the nature or essential characteristics of being and of things that exist; the study of being qua being.


A classification; especially, a classification in a hierarchical system.


In a subject view, or a world view, the set of conceptual or material things or classes of things that are recognised as existing, or are assumed to exist in context, and their interrelations; in a body of theory, the ontology comprises the domain of discourse, the things that are defined as existing, together with whatever emerges from their mutual implications.


The science of finding, describing, classifying and naming organisms.


The theory of a particular philosopher or school of thought concerning the fundamental types of entity in the universe.


That division of the natural sciences which treats of the classification of animals and plants, primarily by consideration of their natural relationships with respect to their structure or genetic origin; the laws or principles of classification; systematics.


(logic) A logical system involving theory of classes, developed by Stanislaw Lesniewski (1886-1939).


A systematic arrangement of objects or concepts showing the relations between them, especially one including a hierarchical arrangement of types in which categories of objects are classified as subtypes of more abstract categories, starting from one or a small number of top categories, and descending to more specific types through an arbitrary number of levels. An ontology usually contains a taxonomy as one of the important principles of organization.


A structure of concepts or entities within a domain, organized by relationships; a system model.


A classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of structure or origin etc


That department of the science of metaphysics which investigates and explains the nature and essential properties and relations of all beings, as such, or the principles and causes of being.


(biology) study of the general principles of scientific classification


A systematic arrangement of all of the important categories of objects or concepts which exist in some field of discourse, showing the relations between them. When complete, an ontology is a categorization of all of the concepts in some field of knowledge, including the objects and all of the properties, relations, and functions needed to define the objects and specify their actions. A simplified ontology may contain only a hierarchical classification (a taxonomy) showing the type subsumption relations between concepts in the field of discourse. An ontology may be visualized as an abstract graph with nodes and labeled arcs representing the objects and relations.


Practice of classifying plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships


The metaphysical study of the nature of being and existence

Common Curiosities

How does ontology differ from taxonomy in purpose?

Ontology not only classifies entities but also extensively defines and elaborates on the nature of relationships among them.

What is the main purpose of taxonomy?

Taxonomy aims to classify and organize entities into a hierarchical structure for easier management and understanding.

What are the benefits of using ontology in data management?

Ontology provides a structured and flexible framework that enhances data connectivity and reusability across different systems.

How does ontology contribute to advancements in AI?

It allows AI systems to process complex and nuanced relationships within data, leading to more intelligent and context-aware systems.

Can you give an example of how ontology is used in technology?

In technology, ontology is used in AI to create models that understand and interpret complex data structures.

What types of relationships does taxonomy primarily use?

Taxonomy primarily uses hierarchical relationships like "is a" and "part of."

Where is taxonomy most commonly used?

Taxonomy is extensively used in biological sciences for classifying organisms.

Can taxonomy be used in non-scientific fields?

Absolutely, taxonomy is applicable in any field requiring structured categorization, such as digital marketing or library science.

Is taxonomy relevant in digital information organization?

Yes, taxonomy is crucial in digital contexts like website navigation and information architecture to enhance user experience.

What makes ontology more complex than taxonomy?

Ontology includes a broader range of relationships and rules that describe how entities interact within a system.

How can ontology improve business processes?

By providing a clear model of the relationships and entities involved, ontology can streamline operations and enhance decision-making.

What role does ontology play in the semantic web?

Ontology is fundamental in the semantic web for defining and linking data in a meaningful way that web technologies can use and understand.

What is a simple definition of taxonomy in education?

In education, taxonomy refers to the categorization of learning objectives that help structure educational content and assessment.

What is a critical difference between the functionalities of taxonomy and ontology?

Taxonomy is primarily organizational, while ontology is both descriptive and enables reasoning.

How does ontology support data integration?

It provides a common framework that ensures consistency and compatibility of data across different systems and databases.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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