The semantic structure of the UMLS Metathesaurus. Academic Article uri icon


  • Meta-1.1, the UMLS metathesaurus, represents medical knowledge in the forms of names of concepts and links between those concepts. The representations of the semantic neighborhood of a concept can be thought of as dimensions of the property of semantic locality and include term information (broader, narrower, or otherwise related), the contextual information (parent-child, siblings in a hierarchy), the semantic types, and the co-occurrence data (links discovered empirically from concepts used to index the medical literature.) The degree of redundancy of each of these dimensions was investigated by reviewing the extent of multiple presentations of concepts which appear as related to a given concept. The degree of overlap was surprisingly small. While the co-occurrence data finds some of the links represented by other dimensions, those links are but minute fractions of the vast amount of co-occurrence derived links. Because parent-child relationships are often subsumptive (or categorical) in nature, it might be expected that siblings usually share the same semantic types. While true in the aggregate, the wide variance in percent of types shared may reflect the intended usages of the source vocabularies. Noun phrases were extracted from the definitions of 40 concepts in Meta-1 in order to assess systematically the coverage of important concepts by Meta-1, and to assess whether the links between these definitional concepts, which may have special value, and the concept being defined were indeed present. Out of 161 of these definitional concepts, 29 were not represented in Meta-1, and 37 of those represented in Meta-1 had no direct link to the concept they were defining.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

publication date

  • January 1, 1992