This glossary defines terms for concepts that are commonly referenced when discussing XBRL and electronic business reporting implementations. These terms are the preferred terms to be used in guidance materials produced by XBRL International's Best Practices Board, and are recommended for all business-orientated documents.


  • Ben Russell, CoreFiling
  • Paul Warren, XBRL International Inc.


  • Paul Hulst, De Nederlandsche Bank
  • David Shaw, Financial Accounting Standards Board
  • Joel Vicente, CoreFiling
  • Andie Wood, Workiva (formerly IFRS Foundation)

In some cases, this glossary provides alternatives for the technical terms defined in the XBRL specifications, which are to be preferred for non-technical use. Where equivalent technical terms exist they are noted as comments in square brackets which can safely be ignored for non-technical use.

For technical use, the terminology defined in the XBRL specifications should be used.

Base taxonomy
A taxonomy that is used as the starting point for an extension taxonomy.
Built-in dimension
Dimensions that are defined by the XBRL specification, and which are required for all facts (depending on their datatype). For example, the "period" built-in dimension defines the date or period in time to which a fact relates, and the "unit" built-in dimension defines the units, such as a monetary currency, in which a numeric fact is reported. Taxonomies may add additional dimensions, referred to as taxonomy-defined dimensions.
Business report
Any document that is used to convey information in order to satisfy a specific reporting requirement. Business reports are typically periodic in nature and can include company annual reports, risk reports, tax reports and internal enterprise performance reports. Business reports may include tabular data, descriptive text, individual numeric facts, charts, graphs, or any combination of the above.
Business validation rules
Validation rules that are backed by requirements from the underlying business domain. Examples of business validation rules include checking that an appropriate currency has been used for monetary facts, checking that mandatory facts have been reported, and checking that numeric values pass appropriate calculation checks. Business validation rules may be included in a taxonomy as XBRL formula rules, enabling XBRL software to automatically check the quality of an XBRL report. These are included to improve data quality in a reporting system.
Calculation tree
Relationships between concepts in a taxonomy for the purpose of describing and validating simple totals and subtotals. [At a technical level, these relationships are defined using the summation-item arcrole in the XBRL specification]
Closed reporting
A reporting system in which the set of data points that is to be reported is prescribed completely by the collector of the reports. The process to be followed by a preparer in a closed reporting system is analogous to completing a paper form, as the boxes that may be completed are prescribed completely by the creator of the form (although as with paper forms, closed reporting systems may include specific points of flexibility, such as where rows in a table may be repeated as many times as required).
A person or organisation that receives or retrieves XBRL reports for the purpose of collecting and/or analysing the data within them. Collectors may include (but are not limited to) regulators and other government agencies, stock exchanges collecting financials from listed companies, banks collecting credit risk reports, and companies collecting financial data for consolidation.
A taxonomy element that provides the meaning for a fact. For example, "Profit", "Turnover", and "Assets" would be typical concepts. [approximate technical term: concept (XBRL v2.1) or primary item (XBRL Dimensions). Concept, as defined here, excludes abstract concepts, and elements that are used to define hypercubes, dimensions and members]
Final end users of the information collected in XBRL reports.
A multi-dimensional definition of related data synonymous with a business intelligence or data warehousing "cube". A cube is defined by combining a set of dimensions with a set of concepts. Cubes are often referred to as "hypercubes", as unlike a physical, 3-dimensional cube, a hypercube may have any number of dimensions. [Approximate technical term: "hypercube". Cube here is used to mean the combination of hypercubes in a single base set]
Data point
Definition of an item that can be reported in an XBRL report. In technical terms, this is the combination a concept and a number of dimension values. A value may be reported against a data point to give a fact.
Definitional taxonomy
A taxonomy that defines a dictionary of elements that is available for use in reporting taxonomies, and which is not meant to be referenced directly by an XBRL report.
For example, an accounting standard setter may provide a definitional taxonomy containing all concepts, and separate reporting taxonomies for different industries or company types.
Dimensional structure
The definition of cubes within a taxonomy.
A qualifying characteristic that is used to uniquely define a data point. For example, a fact reporting revenue may be qualified by a "geography" dimension, to indicate the region to which the revenue relates. A dimension may be either a taxonomy-defined dimension or a built-in dimension. [Technical term: "Aspect"]
Dimension member
A dimension value for an explicit taxonomy-defined dimension. An allowed list of dimension members is defined in the taxonomy.
Dimension value
A value taken by a particular dimension when defining a data point. For example, the dimension value for the period built-in dimension would be a specific date or date range, the dimension value for an explicit taxonomy-defined dimension is a dimension member and the dimension value for a typed taxonomy-defined dimension is a value that is valid against the format that has been specified in the taxonomy.
Entity-specific disclosure
Disclosures included in a report that are specific to the reporting entity, or to a small number of reporting entities. Such disclosures require special handling in XBRL as it is not practical for the base taxonomy to include the concepts and dimension members needed to report all such disclosures for all entities. In order to facilitate the tagging of such disclosures, mechanisms such as entity-specific extension taxonomies may be used. Entity-specific disclosures are common in open reporting environments, but do not occur in closed reporting environments.
Entity-specific extension taxonomy
An extension taxonomy that is created by the preparer of an XBRL report in order to disclose information that is specific to the reporting entity (see entity-specific disclosure).
Extension taxonomy
A taxonomy that is constructed using one or more other taxonomies (a base taxonomy) as a starting point. Extension taxonomies are typically created by a different entity from the author of the base taxonomy. Extension taxonomies may be created by preparers (see entity-specific extension taxonomy) , or they may be created by a collector making use of a taxonomy from a third party such as an accounting standards body.
A fact is an individual piece of information in an XBRL report. A fact is represented by reporting a value against a concept (e.g., profit, assets), and associating it with a number of dimension values (e.g., units, entity, period, other dimensions) that together uniquely define a data point.
The file or set of files that is submitted to a collector. This will include an XBRL report and may include additional files such as an extension taxonomy.
Filing guidance
These are additional instructions and material usually provided in conjunction with filing rules, giving guidance that helps preparers to create filings correctly. For example, this might include guidance on selecting concepts or the scope of the tagging that should be applied. In general, the application of filing guidance cannot be automatically validated, and needs the judgement of the preparer to apply.
Filing rules
Validation rules that are driven by the technical requirements of the filing system in order to ensure interoperability. Examples of filing rules include specifying which versions and modules of the XBRL specifications may be used in filings, any applicable file size limits, restrictions on if and how extension taxonomies should be constructed. Filing rules will usually be enforced by the collector's submission system.
Inline XBRL
See iXBRL report. The terms Inline XBRL and iXBRL are used interchangeably.
iXBRL report
A single document that combines structured, computer-readable data with the preparer's presentation using the iXBRL (or Inline XBRL) standard. An iXBRL report provides the same XBRL data as an XBRL report, but embeds it into an HTML document that can be viewed in a web browser. By linking structured data and human-readable presentation into a single document, iXBRL provides the benefits of computer-readable structured data whilst enabling preparers to retain full control over the presentation of their reports.
A human readable description of a taxonomy component. XBRL labels can be defined in multiple languages and can be of multiple types, such as a "standard label", which provides a concise name for the component, or a "documentation label" which provides a more complete definition of the component.
Open reporting
An environment where a preparer must make their own decisions about exactly which data points are to be reported. This is commonly found in financial reporting where the reporting requirements are expressed as a set of principles that must be followed, rather than a specific set of data points that must be reported. Open reporting environments may allow preparers to provide an extension taxonomy that defines any additional data points needed, although there are other approaches to implementing open reporting with XBRL.
A person or organisation that creates XBRL reports or iXBRL reports.
Preparer's presentation
The human-readable presentation of a business report. The term is used to refer to the report as it would be presented on paper, PDF or HTML.
This term is of particular relevance in open reporting environments, where preparers typically have significant control over the layout and presentation of a report. An iXBRL report embeds XBRL data into an HTML document, allowing a single document to provide both the preparer's presentation and structured data from an XBRL report.
Presentation tree
The organisation of taxonomy elements into a hierarchical structure with the aim of providing a means of visualising or navigating the taxonomy. [At a technical level, the presentation tree is defined using the parent-child arcrole in the XBRL specification]
A piece of structured information attached to a taxonomy component that provides a link to external information about the element. References are typically used to provide links to the definition of a taxonomy component in authoritative literature, such as the relevant accounting standard or legislation. A taxonomy component may have any number of references associated with it. Each reference is composed of a number of reference parts.
Reference part
An individual component of a reference, for example "Chapter 4", or "Paragraph 3". The XBRL standard provides a number of standard reference part types, such as "Article", "Chapter" and "Section". If necessary, taxonomies can define additional reference part types.
Reporting taxonomy
A taxonomy used to define the contents of an XBRL report and against which reports are validated. Intended to be used directly by an XBRL report. See also, definitional taxonomy.
Table structure
A view of a taxonomy or report that is designed to replicate tables for presentation or data entry purposes. Table structures are typically used to cope with the complex, dimensional reports often seen in prudential reporting. [At a technical level, the table structure is defined using the Table Linkbase specification]
A taxonomy links and defines a number of taxonomy components that provide the meaning for facts in an XBRL report. For example, a taxonomy for an accounting standard would include definitions of concepts such as "Profit", "Turnover", and "Assets". Taxonomies may contain a very rich set of information, including multi-language labels, links (known as references) to authoritative definitions (for example, accounting standards or relevant local laws), validation rules and other relationships. Physically, a taxonomy is usually stored in a set of files hosted on a website.
Taxonomy architect
A person responsible for making design decisions that are applied across a taxonomy.
Taxonomy author
A person or organisation who is responsible for defining the content of a taxonomy.
Taxonomy owner
A person or organisation who is responsible for maintaining taxonomy content and taxonomy design/structure. A taxonomy owner may also be a collector, or may be a third party such as an accounting standards body.
Taxonomy component
Anything that can be defined in a taxonomy.
Taxonomy-defined dimension
A dimension that is defined by a taxonomy, as opposed to a built-in dimension. This can be defined to provide any additional qualification needed to fully identify a fact. For example, a taxonomy-defined dimension could be used to indicate that a fact relates to a specific geographic region. A taxonomy-defined dimension may be either "explicit", in which case the taxonomy defines a list of allowed dimension values (e.g. a list of countries), or "typed", in which case the taxonomy defines the format for dimension values (e.g. the format for a postal code).
Taxonomy element
A subset of taxonomy components which may be included in the standard tree structures, such as the presentation tree and calculation tree. This includes concepts, as well as definitions that are used for other purposes such as defining hypercubes, dimensions, and dimension members. [Technical term: "concept definition", corresponding to an XML element declaration in the xbrli:item or xbrli:tuple substitution group]
Taxonomy entry point
A taxonomy entry point identifies a subset (or "view") of a taxonomy. Taxonomies will often provide multiple views for different, related reporting purposes. For example, a taxonomy may cater for different industries reporting under the same accounting standard. A taxonomy entry point is identified by a unique URL (or set of URLs), and is what is referenced by an XBRL report or an extension taxonomy.
Validation rules
Rules that can be applied automatically to XBRL reports in order to ensure quality and interoperability. Validation rules can be either business validation rules or filing rules.
XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language)
Family of specifications used for digital business reporting.
XBRL formula rules
Validation rules defined in a taxonomy using the XBRL Formula specification. These are applied by XBRL processors in addition to XBRL validation [Technical term: XBRL Formula Assertion]
XBRL report
A business report prepared using the XBRL standard. An XBRL report is the file that contains the data that is to be reported in an XBRL filing programme. A report refers to a specific taxonomy entry point and it is the combination of the XBRL report and the taxonomy that enables the contents of a XBRL report to be fully understood. [Technical term: Instance document]
XBRL validation
Rules defined by the XBRL specifications that must be adhered to by all XBRL reports and taxonomies. The rules for XBRL reports ensure a base level of document validity, for example, ensuring that any concepts used in the XBRL report are defined by the corresponding taxonomy, ensuring that monetary concepts have numeric values and currency units, and that facts use combinations of dimensions that are valid according to the dimensional structure defined in the taxonomy. Additional validation rules can be defined in a taxonomy as XBRL formula rules.

Other terms in technical or common use

There are many technical terms in common use which taken from or derived from the XBRL technical specifications. These terms are often based on the syntax that is used to define the technical constructs, rather than the business purpose that they serve which can make them cumbersome and unintuitive for general use.

Such terms are included here for completeness, and where possible are linked to the closest corresponding definition in the glossary. The descriptions provided here are not intended to replace the definitions of terms provided in the relevant XBRL specification.

See cube.
Instance document
See XBRL report.
Technical construct that defines relationships, for example, those used to create a presentation tree or calculation tree.
A namespace is a globally unique identifier that differentiate names created by different sources. In XBRL usage, namespaces are used to disambiguate the taxonomy element names defined in taxonomies. For example, different regional accounting standards might define a concept called "Profit". Namespaces are used to differentiate the UK GAAP definition of "Profit" from the US GAAP definition of "Profit". Namespaces are URIs, which are identifiers that follow the same format as URLs, which are used to locate resources on the internet.
Namespace Prefix
Namespace prefixes are a shorthand notation to represent namespaces. When representing the name of taxonomy element, it is common to use a notation such as "ifrs-full:Profit". In this case "ifrs-full" is a shorthand for the "http://xbrl.ifrs.org/taxonomy/2016-03-31/ifrs-full" namespace. Namespace prefixes must be defined in the document in which they are used, and may be used to represent different namespaces in different documents.
Taxonomy Package
The standard distribution format for a taxonomy. For more information, see the taxonomy package practice profile.

This document was produced by the Taxonomy Architecture Guidance Task Force.

Was this article helpful?

Related Articles


Would you like
to learn more?

Join our Newsletter mailing list to
stay plugged in to the latest
information about XBRL around the world.

By clicking submit you agree to the XBRL International privacy policy which can be found at xbrl.org/privacy