UMBEL serves two primary purposes:

  • First, it is a vocabulary for the construction of concept-based domain ontologies, designed to act as references for the linking and mapping of external content. This portion is known as the UMBEL Vocabulary, and
  • Second, it is its own broad, general reference structure of 34,000 concepts, which provides a scaffolding to orient other datasets and domain vocabularies. This portion is known as the UMBEL Reference Concept Ontology.

In its standard use, UMBEL is a lightweight ontology structure for relating Web content and data to a standard set of reference concepts.

The project began in July 2007. Most of its early months were devoted to design and diligence on contributing efforts. The first release of the ontology was in July 2008.


UMBEL stands for Upper Mapping and Binding Exchange Layer. Umbel-ed flowers, like Queen Anne's Lace or licorice, come from the Apiaceae familiy (what used to be called the Umbelliferae, for "umbels of umbels"). Umbel has the same Latin root as umbrella ( umbra for shade, or umbella for parasol). The name conveys the umbrella-like nature of UMBEL's reference concept structure.

In text references, the UMBEL name is shown in all caps. UMBEL is pronounced like "humble," except without the "h". Its logo is the lower case Century Gothic with the umbel-flower graphic as shown on the masthead.


UMBEL's editors are:

Supporting Efforts

We would like to thank greatly Aleksander Smywinski-Pohl and Krzysztof Wróbel of Jagiellonian University for their analysis and assistance on version 1.20. We'd also like to thank Jana Vataa inová (University of Economics, Prague) and OndYej Zamazal (University of Economics, Prague, COSOL project) for their contributions of five LOV vocabulary mappings.

Versions History

  • Version 0.70 - July 16, 2008 (first public release)
  • Version 0.71 - September 3, 2008
  • Version 0.72 - August 21, 2009
  • Version 0.80 - November 15, 2010
  • Version 1.00 - February 10, 2011
  • Version 1.05 - May 21, 2012
  • Version 1.10 - September 9, 2014
  • Version 1.20 - April 20, 2015
  • Version 1.50 - May 10, 2016 (CURRENT VERSION)

Licensing and Attribution

We are pleased to license the UMBEL ontology under terms that explicitly encourage you to take, modify, reuse, re-purpose, and remix our work as you see fit. The content of UMBEL and its documentation are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Proper attribution is required when you use UMBEL or its documentation, whether without change or when you reuse or create modified versions of it, according to the terms of this Creative Commons Attribution license. The complete requirements for attribution can be found in section 4b of the Creative Commons legal code.

If you use UMBEL or its documentation, as is or with modifications, we ask that you provide attribution with Web links to the best of your ability for your given medium as follows:

UMBEL and its documentation are the creative work of Structured Dynamics LLC, which grant free use rights thereto, only limited by the attribution terms described in the Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution License. The copyrights to UMBEL and its documentation remain the sole rights of Structured Dynamics LLC and Ontotext AD.

If you have questions or suggestions regarding UMBEL or these license policies, please email us at umbel@structureddynamics.com.

The Relationship with Cycorp and OpenCyc

The UMBEL Reference Concept Ontology is based on a faithful but reduced subset extraction of concepts and relationships from the OpenCyc version of the Cyc knowledge base. As such, UMBEL is a lightweight reflection of these sources, but not nearly as capable nor complete.

Use and relations based on UMBEL may therefore not be an accurate representation of what might be obtained in working directly with the source Cyc or OpenCyc knowledge bases.

Our project is most grateful for the ongoing involvement and contributions of Cycorp and the Cyc Foundation in support of UMBEL. However, any errors or omissions in UMBEL are the responsibility of the project alone.


UMBEL sponsorship has been generously provided by:

We'd like to thank the European Union research project RENDER for support for development of version 1.05. The large-scale RENDER project aims to integrate diverse methods in the ways Web information is selected, ranked, aggregated, presented and used. We'd also like to thank OpenLink Software for initial infrastructure and development support in 2008.


Copyright © 2008-2018. Structured Dynamics LLC. All content available via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0