It is often necessary to provide a translation that conveys the meaning and intent of the original while sacrificing certain details in order to sound natural in the target language.

I don't mean the case of choosing a fixed expression like "two peas in a pod" in the target language that roughly corresponds to one in the source, but rather the more common case of a detail that is present and literally meaningful in the original but which usually doesn't make it into the target because it would feel unnecessary or awkward.

Is there an English verb that captures this? I find myself wanting to say that such-and-such a detail is "glossed out" of the translation, but it seems that the term "gloss" has a different meaning in linguistics (I understand that it means an explanatory note, not a translation). On the other hand, I have also seen translations within Japanese-English dictionaries referred to as glosses.

The background of the question is that I write about the Japanese language for English-speaking learners and frequently have to refer to this sort of thing. It feels natural to me to say things are "glossed out" of the translation, but I want to make sure I'm not misusing terms. Thank you in advance for any thoughts.

  • This is better suited to the English language stackexchange english.stackexchange.com Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 19:46
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    Okay, fair enough, but is this not something that linguistics people might have an opinion on as well?
    – Brian Rak
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 19:47
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    This question is about translators' terminology, so arguably, it may be on-topic. At least, it does not deserve downvotes, IMO. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 20:30
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    The translation strategy falls under 'dynamic equivalence', but I don't think we have a verb for an instance of eliminating a source term to achieve dynamic equivalence. You could make one up: a punning use of "gloss over", for instance, or an invention like "glot out". Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 11:57
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    'Gloss out' is a nifty echo of 'cross out', but it feels off to me, probably because in the sorts of text I work with a 'gloss' is usually something added: a marginal or parenthetical translation of a foreign or technical term to explain it. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 23:43

1 Answer 1


I don't know if there's a term for the specific thing you're referring to, but the general concept, which also includes translating idioms like you mentioned, is called sense-for-sense translation. This includes more than removing meaningful details that cannot be translated pragmatically; it also includes adding new details that give the same sense as the original statement, even if there isn't a lexical or syntactical correspondence.

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense-for-sense_translation

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