The Unified Medical Language System (UMLS): integrating biomedical terminology

Nucleic Acids Research
Olivier Bodenreider


The Unified Medical Language System ( is a repository of biomedical vocabularies developed by the US National Library of Medicine. The UMLS integrates over 2 million names for some 900,000 concepts from more than 60 families of biomedical vocabularies, as well as 12 million relations among these concepts. Vocabularies integrated in the UMLS Metathesaurus include the NCBI taxonomy, Gene Ontology, the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH), OMIM and the Digital Anatomist Symbolic Knowledge Base. UMLS concepts are not only inter-related, but may also be linked to external resources such as GenBank. In addition to data, the UMLS includes tools for customizing the Metathesaurus (MetamorphoSys), for generating lexical variants of concept names (lvg) and for extracting UMLS concepts from text (MetaMap). The UMLS knowledge sources are updated quarterly. All vocabularies are available at no fee for research purposes within an institution, but UMLS users are required to sign a license agreement. The UMLS knowledge sources are distributed on CD-ROM and by FTP.


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