and are essentially the same thing, just with regional variation in what it's called. I propose that these tags be merged and a synonym created to avoid confusion. I've generally heard it referred to as "canyoneering", but that seems to be mostly only used in the US, with "canyoning" being more common elsewhere and having more questions tagged as such on the site. Therefore I suggest we merged "canyoneering" into "canyoning" and edit the tag wiki of "canyoning" to mention that it's also known as "canyoneering".

and mean the same thing, and the tag wiki for rappelling even says "also called abseiling". has more questions than (14 vs 5) and seems to be more commonly used in my experience, so I would suggest merging "abseiling" into "rappelling" and also creating a synonym.

Note: There has been much consternation about this post, and it seems to stem from my originally saying "merge request" and not "merge + synonym request". On other SE sites, posts tagged are implied to be requesting a synonym be created at the same time. Apparently TGO users aren't familiar with that assumption, so I'm hereby clarifying that. I don't propose to remove wholesale all references to or , I simply am proposing that we clean things up so it's easier for everyone to find it. If you disagree because you're afraid of the word "merge", please read the rest of this post very carefully before voting against this.

Edit: To everybody saying "no don't merge them, just make a synonym, merging is bad!", you don't understand how it works.

When you create a synonym, all future posts using the synonym tag are automatically and immediately retagged to the master tag. You can see an example of this with and . Post a question with the tag and it will immediately be retagged to as soon as you hit submit. This is how synonyms work. When the user is creating or editing a question, they can type in any of the synonyms and be presented with the relevant master tag, making it easy for somebody to type (for example) and see the tag complete with a little "also: abseiling" text below it.

All merging does is it retags any questions which had the synonymous tag before the synonym was created. This is just to ensure consistency and make it easier for people to search.

If you support making a synonym, there is literally no reason at all why you should not support merging the tags.

Further edit because apparently nobody believes me: Look, I'm a moderator on Super User, a Stack Exchange site 10x bigger than this one. I've merged tags more times than I can remember. I know how this works. Here is a screenshot of the freaking tag merge admin interface, so you can see exactly what I mean:

how you do a freaking tag merge

As you can see, there is a checkbox for "these two tags are synonyms, and mean the exact same thing". When you check that box and click "merge", any instance of the old tag is converted to the new tag, and a synonym is created mapping the old tag to the new one.

If you merge into and check the synonym box, then all questions with will be retagged to , and any time somebody types tag1 into the search box or the tag list on a question it will suggest tag2 automatically.

  • I'll second that! Aug 18, 2015 at 22:09
  • Are "rappelling" and "abseiling" two different tags? Aug 19, 2015 at 0:11
  • 1
    @ChrisMendez good call, yes they are. I'll add that as well. The tag wiki for "rappelling" even says "also called abseiling"!
    – nhinkle
    Aug 19, 2015 at 0:21
  • I've raised a Meta.SE post to try and get some clarity from the community at large
    – user2766
    Aug 19, 2015 at 9:24
  • Deleted my previous answer and answered based on advice from the meta post above
    – user2766
    Aug 19, 2015 at 9:52
  • 2
    Merging is the wrong thing to do. I'd also suggest the other direction if you do go for it, but it really should be synomonised.
    – Tim
    Aug 19, 2015 at 10:16
  • This appears to be an issue that SE has not had to really deal with before. The synonyms advice says synonyms should always be merged. But I think this only applies to items where the two things are totally (and equally) interchangeable, like these two are.
    – user2766
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:37
  • @Liam I don't understand your confusion here. Why do you think a synonym is good and a merge is bad? They're two sides of the same coin.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:24
  • Because a merge removes the tag, completely. It can no longer be used or searched or added to a question. A synonymy allows the tag to be re-used but then replaces it when the question is saved. This means that x person looking to add a question to about "abseiling" will be able to and the system will just replace the tag with "rappelling" (for example). If they're merged then the person will search for abseiling and get no result. They could then add the tag (again) or just leave, confused, which is not the desired result.
    – user2766
    Aug 20, 2015 at 10:02
  • I don't want to be grumpy or come across confrontational but I feel I need to make a point, so I apologise in advance. But, I don't understand why several people (on here and meta) have said this should be a synonym and not merged but you refuse to agree with them. I kind of feel this discussion has gone as far as it possibly can, no?
    – user2766
    Aug 20, 2015 at 10:06
  • I'm struggling not to go caps lock here. Please read what I wrote. Please look at the screenshot. Please understand that MERGING DOES NOT PRECLUDE YOU FROM HAVING A SYNONYM. I literally just described what you said - that if you merge and then synonymize abseiling => rappelling, you WILL get results for rappelling when you search for abseiling.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 10:06
  • @Liam The users opposing the merge are misunderstanding the mechanics of the whole thing. Nhinkle is correct in this case, merging and creating a synonym are not mutually exclusive you can do both. In fact, the merge tool has a checkbox for creating a synonym in addition to merging.
    – user6635
    Aug 20, 2015 at 10:11

3 Answers 3


All merging does is it retags any questions which had the synonymous tag before the synonym was created. This is just to ensure consistency and make it easier for people to search.

It does and it doesn't. Merging makes the old tag unavailable. Yes, it means when you search you only see one tag, but it still will find the main tag.

On Ask Ubuntu, is a synonym of . When you search for it, it shows 12.04 tagged questions. In fact, it redirects the URL to be a 12.04 search.

If you merge abseiling into rappelling and create a synonym, people can still find the right tag!

You can't do both, one or the other. Merging completely destroys the original tag, and all posts have tag A. Suppose a post is tagged , and you merge into , all posts with will end up with and there will be no way to search for .

If you support synonyms, there is no reason you should not support merging. Merging is just fixing tags from before a synonym was created

No. Merging is a different action. It can be used in different situations, for example a really rarely used tag can be merged into another. But synonyms are for when they are used a lot - in the case.

If you merge abseiling into rappelling and create a synonym, people can still find the right tag!

I am quite sure you a) cannot do both and b) it would be redundant. Merging is a separate tool, has a separate use case and this is not it.

When you say "you don't understand how it works" I'm sorry, but I really don't think you do - this is not the place to do it.

If you want users to add and it turn into , then you need a synonym. Merging would remove this functionality, and also mean you don't see the "also , ", pictured here.

This answer to Liam's Meta SE post has another really good explanation of the difference between the two - and this quote is expecially relevant:

Only synonymising will affect search results in that way. Merging by itself is destructive of all instances of

And therefore is not searchable. Which we don't want - if I came here, I'd tag my question abseiling, and want to search for abseiling.

  • I was just trying to find this information: What is the difference between a synonym and merging a tag?. Could be worth adding this answer to the meta post also. Thanks @Tim
    – user2766
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:08
  • I am quite 100% sure that a) you can do both at the same exact time from the same exact page, and b) it would not be redundant because as you just said, they're different things. I do know how it works because I've done it literally dozens of times. This is precisely the use case for merging. Merging does not remove synonyms.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:57

The correct course of action here is to flag these as synonyms, see meta post here

Make them synonyms - use the most popular as the main one (I agree this may be hard to decide on, but ask the community on meta).

Then, when someone types in the other one, the system will say, underneath the main one also: [other tag] - this tells the user that they are related.

More information on how synonyms work is covered here

A tag synonym is usually a tag that has exactly the same meaning as some other tag, such as algorithm and algorithms. In some cases, tags that are subsets of other tags will also be considered synonyms, such as java-se for java.

The system organizes tags in a master–synonym relationship. All uses of the synonym tag for any given master tag are automatically converted to the master tag. So, users can enter a synonym tag when writing a question, but the master tag will be displayed when the question is loaded. Editing a question tagged with a synonym tag causes it to be replaced by the master tag. Similarly, when users search for questions tagged with a synonym, a list of questions tagged with the master will be displayed.

to add a synonym you need to meet the following:

  • Users with more than 2500 reputation (1250 on beta sites) and a total answer score of 5 or more on a given tag may suggest synonyms for that tag.
  • Users with a total answer score (total upvotes minus downvotes) of 5 or more for a given tag may vote for synonyms for that tag.

Suggestions will be automatically approved when they reach a score of four, and automatically deleted when they reach a score of negative two. If there aren’t enough people aware of the proposed tag synonym, or if you aren’t sure whether the synonym is a good idea, open a discussion on your site’s meta, tagged (for questions about the synonyms on this site, Meta Stack Exchange, add ).

It's a good idea to mention the synonym in the tag wiki, as suggested.

  • I think we need to have a broader discussion then about tags on this site, as there's clearly some disagreement about the best way to do it and misunderstandings of how the synonyms system works. I'll do up a separate meta post shortly.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 19, 2015 at 16:13
  • I'm not clear what another meta post does that can't be addressed here? synonyms work as discussed in one of the links above (What are tag synonyms? How do they work?). What don't you agree with in the above? The SE meta post would normally dictate best practice across all the SE sites, this one included.
    – user2766
    Aug 19, 2015 at 16:31
  • OK @liam reading the new metaSE post you wrote I don't think we need an identical one here. What everybody is misunderstanding though is that merging is really just an extension of creating a synonym. Once a synonym is created, all future use of any of the synonyms will be automatically and immediately converted to the master tag when a question is submitted. See this example for the gear tag synonym. You can't make a new question with gear but it's easy to see the proper tag, equipment: i.sstatic.net/qC61d.png
    – nhinkle
    Aug 19, 2015 at 16:49
  • 1
    All merging does is take any previous questions which have one of the synonyms, and convert it to the master, for the sake of consistency. It does not preclude the presence of synonyms. If you merge abseiling into rappelling and create a synonym, people can still find the right tag! If they were to type abseiling into the tag bar, it would suggest rappelling and say abseiling in small text under it. If you support synonyms, there is no reason you should not support merging. Merging is just fixing tags from before a synonym was created.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 19, 2015 at 16:50
  • 2
    @nhinkle it does convert them to the master... And destroys the old tag and there is no way to restore it, and there is no link between the two... My answer expands on this comment and your edit more.
    – Tim
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:03
  • @Tim yes, there is a link between them, the synonym is the link between them. When you merge, you also make a synonym. Look, I'm a mod on Super User, I've done more tag merges than I can count. I know how it works. This is how it's supposed to work. The only argument for synonyms and against merging is an uniformed argument.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:23
  • @nhinkle But once you merge, the old tag has 0 questions and is removed by the system - ergo the synonym goes.
    – Tim
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:23
  • @Tim you misunderstand. The merge does not destroy the synonym. The synonym is preserved.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:34
  • @nhinkle but the tag is removed...
    – Tim
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:37
  • @Tim look at my updated question post. Tag being removed has nothing to do with the synonym. They can be independent actions, but they're usually done together. Removing the tag does not preclude (and in fact often comes with) adding a synonym. A synonym can exist while having 0 questions tagged with the synonym tag and all questions tagged with the master value.
    – nhinkle
    Aug 20, 2015 at 9:52

I personally feel that they should not be merged. As Liam already explained the main purpose of tags. These are the keywords that can help us get more visitors and hence potential users.

There are plenty of examples of such tags at the Great Outdoors. For example, and . What we (in India) call a battery-powered portable hand-held lamp: a 'Torch', in US they call it a 'Flashlight'.

Both are same equipment, serving same purpose. Indian users will find Flashlight a relatively unknown term for that.
That said, I think the tags which are pure synonyms are okay to be merged. e.g. and (Not in context of Bicycles obviously), and for that matter.

A second example would be of tags and .

  • 1
    Washing and cleaning are good synonyms but you can clean something without washing it so shouldnt be merged... Good example with torches though as a torch can be a burning stick (or fuel burning in a metal tprch on a wall) as well as a battery powered source
    – Aravona
    Aug 20, 2015 at 8:23

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