Disambiguation in Wikipedia is the process of resolving conflicts that arise when a potential article title is ambiguous, most often because it refers to more than one subject covered by Wikipedia, either as the main topic of an article, or as a subtopic covered by an article in addition to the article's main topic. For example, the word "Mercury" can refer to a chemical element, a planet, a Roman god, and many other things.

There are three important aspects to disambiguation:

  • Naming articles in such a way that each has a unique title. For example, three of the articles dealing with topics ordinarily called "Mercury" are titled Mercury (element), Mercury (planet)and Mercury (mythology).
  • Making the links for ambiguous terms point to the correct article title. For example, an editor of an astronomy article may have created a link to Mercury, and this should be corrected to point to Mercury (planet).
  • Ensuring that a reader who searches for a topic using a particular term can get to the information on that topic quickly and easily, whichever of the possible topics it might be. For example, the page Mercury is a disambiguation page—a non-article page which lists various meanings of "Mercury" and which links to the articles that cover them. (As discussed below, however, ambiguous terms do not always require a disambiguation page.)

This page discusses the standard ways of handling the above issues. For detailed advice about the format of disambiguation pages, see the style manual.

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Deciding to disambiguate[edit] Edit

Disambiguation is required whenever, for a given word or phrase on which a reader might search, there is more than one existing Wikipedia article to which that word or phrase might be expected to lead. In this situation there must be a way for the reader to navigate quickly from the page that first appears to any of the other possible desired articles.

There are three principal disambiguation scenarios, of which the following are examples:

  • The page at Joker is a disambiguation page, leading to all the alternative uses of "Joker".
  • The page at Rice is about one usage, called the primary topic, and there is a hatnote guiding readers to Rice (disambiguation) to find the other uses.
  • The page at Michael Dobbs is about the primary topic, and there is only one other use. The other use is linked directly using a hatnote; no disambiguation page is needed.

For how to decide which of these scenarios is appropriate in a given case, see the following two sections: