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MeSH Translations

The MeSH Section creates and maintains the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) vocabulary in American English but the audience and colleagues that support and use the vocabulary are international. In the spirit of international cooperation, suggestions for new terms and modifications to existing terms are received from institutions and individuals located across the globe, enhancing and enriching MeSH contents.

To further cooperation with the international biomedical community, the Medical Translation Maintenance System (MTMS) was created as an interactive tool to support translation of the MeSH vocabulary into other languages, provide standardized data formats, and to enhance the currency of MeSH in translation as the annual MeSH updates are made by NLM.  In addition several organizations independently provide translated versions of MeSH using their own systems.

Obtaining MeSH Translations

When provided by their contributing organizations, MeSH translations are included as source vocabularies in the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS). Users can obtain a copy of these translations by either obtaining a UMLS license or by contacting the organization providing the translation. For more information about using the UMLS system to obtain different versions of MeSH or other vocabularies, please refer to the UMLS Quick Start Guide.

The UMLS includes foreign language translations of MeSH from a broad array of sources. These translations have included Croatian, Czech, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish . The frequency and currency of these translations are controlled by the organizations producing them. There may be restrictions for their use that are identified in the UMLS licensing agreements. For futher information see the UMLS MeSH Source Information Page which gives details for each translated version.

MeSH Translation Maintenance System (MTMS)

The MeSH Translation Maintenance System (MTMS) is an NLM-based developed to help assist organizations interested in producing a translated version of MeSH. The translations are produced as volunteer cooperative effort between NLM and the translating organization. The translated versions are usually based on the currently available version of MeSH and added to the UMLS, dependent upon when we receive them. The MeSH vocabulary is produced annually. The UMLS is updated in May and November of each year. The May release is the AA release (ex. 2016AA) and the November release is the AB Release (ex. 2016AB)

The production of MTMS translations are timed to coordinate with the annual MeSH release, and the bi-annual release of UMLS, according to the following schedule:

Important Dates for Inclusion of MTMS in MeSH
Date Activity Description
Mid-late September New MeSH files available A MeSH preview XML annual release file is produced for MTMS and other MeSH users to review new headings and changes. Minor changes in MeSH data may occur up until the final release of MeSH in November.
Mid-November MeSH Annual Releases MeSH releases final annual data files for next year
UMLS AB Release UMLS release, including the new annual MeSH release data. Translated files received by June 1 are included in this release.
December 1st Final deadline for MTMS inclusion in UMLS AA release MTMS files must be submitted for the translated files to be included in the upcoming UMLS AA release in May.
December 2nd MTMS Cutover MTMS processing cycle begins for translations of MeSH for the UMLS AA release.
Early May UMLS AA Release UMLS release, including translated MeSH files received at the December 1 deadline.
June 1st Final deadline for MTMS inclusion in UMLS AA release MTMS files must be submitted for the files to be included in the upcoming UMLS AB release in November.
June 5th MTMS Cutover MTMS processing cycle begins for translations of the MeSH for the November UMLS release.


For information about using the MTMS system to create a translated version of MeSH, please Contact the National Library of Medicine