Terminology: topics vs threads

(Christoph) #1

I was curious to see a discussion about why topics are called topics and not threads (the more common term in online forums, according to my experience) but so far I have not been able to find any. Has this really not been discussed previously?

Personally, I have gotten used to the discourse terminology but I find it somewhat of a pain when trying to explain things to new users, as “topic” is not intuitively understood while thread is well known from email and other online forums. Yet, I am reluctant to customize the terminology assuming that the default terminology was a very conscious choice by the discourse team…

'Your post contains words that aren't allowed' ... but which ones?
(Daniela) #2

From a non-english point of view, I think that “thread” is a terminology related to the forum technology (as “the string of all posts”), while “topic” is related to discussions (as the “subject under discussion”). So if this is a platform for discussions I think “topic” is the right term.

(Jeff Atwood) #3

Thread is a technical computer geek term, also it implies threading. So worth avoiding for both of those reasons.

Missing Norwegian translations

Topic is perfectly appropriate in ways that thread never can be:

  • A topic describes content. As others have already pointed out, a thread describes the mode of operation where messages are connected in threads.
  • Thread is also a literary term but a topic describes focus at a higher level than a thread which, in literary terms, always runs through a larger body of text.
  • A thread is interior to a topic. One topic can have many threads. New topics become new threads.
  • A topic is more focussed than a thread. Topics are major parts whereas threads are minor parts in the main discussion.
  • Technically, you do not have a thread until there is at least a message in response/reply.
  • Likewise, in computer systems threads don’t normally exist independently. They normally execute from a process. However, there are exceptions which is another reason for avoiding the technical computing term where threads are concerned.

(Stephen) #5

Sure, but isn’t banning the word going a little too far? It prevented me from quoting the above.


(Jeff Atwood) #6

Not from my perspective, it isn’t.

(Christoph) #7

Hm, never mind the banning of whichever word, but maybe quotes should be excluded?


why is “t h r e a d” a banned word?

(David Taylor) #9

See here:


(^^Onebox is not working because I had to remove the word t h r e a d from the URL :roll_eyes:)

(Christoph) #10

Haha, there is a way:

Now what do you say? :sunglasses:

I’d say this one is the crucial post:

(Barbara Kerr) #11

Oy! I just asked this same question to a Discourse Team member I am working about a data migration. I was trying to describe an issue and Discourse wouldn’t let me use the “bad word”. Really? I’d understand if it was the F-word or something like that, but…

As a result, I had to stop what I was doing to post screenshot like Steve did above. The whole thing slowed me down in trying to communicate.


Hi Barbara,
See: Why is the word "thread" not allowed on Meta? for more details .

(Barbara Kerr) #13

Hi Hawk,

Yes, I saw Jeff’s posting. I understand you may not want it on Meta, but this was my own Discourse instance, following a data migration where a “string” (allowed?) of continuous posts was broken up into 5 separate ones ("bad words:). I’m in communication with your Team member and he’ll resolve my separate question. Thanks.



It was actually Meta that threw the error – your emails go straight into our team PM inbox.
It is unrelated to the issue on your site.