Originally, this guideline was developed in response to some prolonged Wikipedia:Categories for discussion procedures that debated the categorization of people in articles. As has been proven since, this guideline can be helpful for other "delicate" categorization issues.

Definitions and scope

This guideline is about categorization of people. It discusses:

Categorization of biographical articles
This includes all articles in main namespace named after a person or a group of persons, including split-outs of such articles. Similarly, categorization of files containing portraits of people and biographies in Books namespace. The main biographical article of a person is the single main namespace article named after that person. When there are split-outs, the main biography should be a summary style article (see Wikipedia:Naming conventions (people)#Several articles treating the same person).
People categories
All categories where such biographical articles could be expected to be listed. Normally such categories belong in the Category:People categorization tree.

The concepts used in this guideline are explained in Wikipedia:Categorization and subpages, and:

Sensitive categories
Categories are defined as sensitive when they recur at Wikipedia:Categories for Discussion giving way to extensive and convoluted discussions. This includes:
Failing to handle these categories appropriately can lead to external criticism, e.g. Kevin Morris (2013-05-01), "Does Wikipedia's sexism problem really prove that the system works?", Daily Dot.[1]

General considerations

See also: Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial § Categorization

Be aware that mis-categorizations are more sensitive for articles on people than for articles on other topics.

Example: Categorizing a politician involved in a scandal as a "criminal" would create much more controversy than categorizing a behaviour or act as "criminal".


Biographical articles should be categorized by defining characteristics. As a rule of thumb for main biographies this includes:
  • standard biographical details: year of birth, year of death and nationality
  • the reason(s) for the person's notability; i.e., the characteristics the person is best known for.
For example, a film actor who holds a law degree should be categorized as a film actor, but not as a lawyer unless their legal career was notable in its own right or relevant to their acting career. Many people had assorted jobs before taking the one that made them notable; those other jobs should not be categorized.
Similarly, celebrities commercializing a fragrance should not be in the perfumers category; not everything a celebrity does after becoming famous warrants categorization.

Categorization schemes

See also: Wikipedia:Category names § Categorization of people

Currently, people tend to be categorized by the following broad categories. There is currently no consensus about the order in which these categories should be placed at the bottom of an article.

By association

Currently, Wikipedia supports categorizing People by educational institution and People by company, as well as numerous more specific categories.

By ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, disability, medical or psychological conditions

Main page: Wikipedia:Categorization/Ethnicity, gender, religion and sexuality

The main guideline on these categories and categorizations includes a discussion of cross-section categories.

By the person's name

See also: Wikipedia:Categorization § Eponymous categories, and Wikipedia:Overcategorization § Eponymous categories for people

In certain very notable cases, an individual's name can be used to categorize the person itself, for example Category:Abraham Lincoln. However, this should not be done simply to reduce the number of categories displayed in an article.

Categories using the name of a person hold articles directly related to that person. Remember this when placing the article in larger categories. If the person is a member of a category, put the article about the person in the larger category. If articles directly related to the person are also members of the larger category, put the category with the person's name in the larger category. This often results in the article and category being categorized differently. For an example of this see George W. Bush and Category:George W. Bush.

By nationality and occupation

People are usually categorized by their nationality and occupation, such as Category:Ethiopian musicians. The template ((Fooian fooers)) is used to provide navigation on each category page, such as:

Classification: People: By occupation: Entertainers: Musicians: By nationality: Ethiopian
also: Ethiopia: People: By occupation: Entertainers: Musicians

By place

People are sometimes categorized by notable residence, regardless of ethnicity, heritage, or nationality. Residential categories should not be used to record people who have never resided in that place. Nationality is reflected by the occupation category (above), not country or county or city of residence. The category page of People from Foo may mention the most commonly used names for residents ("Fooians", or "Fooers"), assuming that common usage is verifiable (e.g. by Google).

The place of birth, although it may be significant from the perspective of local studies, is rarely defining from the perspective of an individual. The residence of parents and relatives is never defining and rarely notable. The place of death is not normally categorized; consider using a list if this relates to a specific place or event. If it is relevant to identify the place of burial (either from the viewpoint of the person or the burial place), then someone buried in a less notable cemetery, or in a place with just a few notable burials, should be recorded in a list within the article about the burial place. However, if the burial place is notable in its own right and has too many other notable people to list, then burials should be categorized.

By heritage

Heritage categories should not be used to record people based on deduction, inference, residence, surname, nor any partial derivation from one or more ancestors. The heritage of grandparents is never defining and rarely notable. In addition to the requirement of verifiability, living people must have self-identified as a particular heritage, while historical persons may be identified by notable association with a single heritage.

Categories that intersect heritage with occupation, residence, or other such categories should only be created where that combination is itself recognized as a distinct and unique cultural topic in its own right, as with Category:African-American politicians (see WP:OCEGRS). These categories should not be created without a substantial and encyclopedic well sourced head article describing the contents (not just a list). Such categories should be treated as distinguished category (see discussion here), such that included articles should be otherwise integrated into the nationality/occupation category structure outside of the heritage subcategory.


By time period

People are usually categorized by time period if their activity in that time period is a WP:DEFINING characteristic.

For example:

By year

People are categorized by their year of birth and year of death. See Wikipedia:People by year for how to categorize people by their years of birth and death.

Ordering names in a category

It is possible to change the default order in which the articles in a Category are displayed on the Category: page. For general instructions and conventions about this, see Wikipedia:Categorization#Sort keys. Note that there are two techniques for defining a sort order different from the sort order that would result from the page name:

  1. Adding ((DEFAULTSORT:category sort key here)) in the article sets the category sort key for all categories without sort keys in that article, before or after it.
  2. Per listed category, overriding the DEFAULTSORT, [[Category:Category name here|category sort key here]]

The sort key should mirror the article's title as closely as possible, while omitting disambiguating terms. Some exceptions are made, however, to force correct collation.

Sort by surname

If the article is titled "Forename Surname", the category should be added to the article as [[Category:Type X people|Surname, Forename]] (or: ((DEFAULTSORT:Surname, Forename))) so that it will be sorted by surname (surname and family name are used interchangeably in this article). However, there are exceptions depending on customs, where a person lives and when they lived. If the country is not listed, try consulting with Names of persons : national usages for entry in catalogue in the bibliography section. It is a resource for how librarians and institutions inside their respective country sort names. However, the sort value may be inappropriate outside their country.[2]

Historical patronymic names

The patronymic system was once common throughout Europe and in some parts of the world. See Patronymic for the list of systems used in each country. Patronymic names should be sorted on their first name. The following is to distinguish how to sort the relevant historical people in some of the more common languages:


Other exceptions

Creating a new category

Further information: Help:Categories

is as simple as using it on a page. But we have some community rules about naming and purpose of a category that you should consider.

Before creating a new category

Before creating a new category, please be sure a similar category does not exist.

Example: You might want to list someone in Category:Mexicans. Before creating that category, try to find it under a similar name. By starting at Category:People by nationality, you will discover that Mexicans are placed in Category:Mexican people.

Consider making a list

Consider whether a list or other grouping technique would be more appropriate:

Consider whether the category might be considered category clutter

Main page: Wikipedia:Overcategorization

For example eponymous categories (categories named after a person) should only be created if sufficient directly related articles exist.

Choose an appropriate name for the category

Main page: Wikipedia:Naming conventions (categories) § Categorization of people

A good category name is generic and neither too long nor too short.

Finding a good category name for sensitive people-related topics is not a "mathematical" science, but relies on good taste, and more than often on a bit of creativity to find a good solution that satisfies all.

Clearly define the category

It is preferable that the category definition (on the category page) tries to exclude vague or non-neutral point of view (NPOV) cases. In many cases, only referencing a Wikipedia article explaining the term is not sufficient as a definition for a category. This is true for almost every sensitive category. If the article you want to use as definition is problematic in itself, consider improving the article. Otherwise, or if that is not sufficient, write a definition of what goes in and what goes out of the category on the category page, with the reference article(s) as background information.

Example: "Atheist" can be used as an offensive term (people living under a Fatwa are still today often called atheist by their condemnors, irrespective of whether the former consider themselves atheist). Some of the vague (and non-NPOV) edges of an "Atheists" category are about the unclear distinction between "strong" and "weak" atheism (see the atheism article) and about whether only outspoken followers of atheistic beliefs should be named or everyone generally considered to be an "Atheist". See Category:Atheists for how the category is currently defined.

Place the new category in another category

See the general rules regarding categorization, and try to position the new category in a suitable place on the tree of "people" categories.

Experiencing a problematic categorization

Improper categorizations

If a person has an "incorrect" categorization, remove the category from the article and replace it (if applicable) with a correct category.

If the categorization is "correct" and the category is reasonable, but still seems problematic, please discuss the categorization on the talk page of the article in question. If the same concern applies to many members of the category, you can list the category for discussion at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion if a merge or rename is required, or at a relevant WikiProject board.

Improperly named categories

If the category name has an obvious typographical error, please list it for speedy renaming at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Speedy.

Redundant categories

See also: Wikipedia:Overcategorization

If the category name has an obvious and unnecessary redundancy with another existing category, please list it for deletion or merging at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion.

Inappropriate categories

See also: Wikipedia:Overcategorization § Subjective inclusion criteria, and Wikipedia:Overcategorization § Opinion about a question or issue

If the problem is not about accuracy, but about an "(in)appropriateness" for a single article to be in this category, you can remove that categorization from that article, but also consider the following:

Category namespace templates

Further information: Wikipedia:Template messages/Category namespace

Most of the templates that can be found at Wikipedia:Template messages/Category namespace are about sorting and organising categories. Here are two that can be used for problematic "people" categorizations:

What to type What it makes
((categorization of people disputed))
links talk edit
((subjective category))
links talk edit
Note: unlike other templates, this note is placed at the bottom of the category page.


  1. ^ Kevin Morris (2013-05-01), "Does Wikipedia's sexism problem really prove that the system works?", Daily Dot, archived from the original on 2013-05-02, retrieved 2013-05-02
  2. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. IX–XI
  3. ^ a b c d Hedden, Heather (April 2007). "Arabic names" (PDF). The Indexer. 25 (3). Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  4. ^ a b c Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.74
  5. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.75
  6. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 155–158
  7. ^ Akhtar, Nasreen (April 1989). "Asian names" (PDF). The Indexer. 16 (3). Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  8. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003
  9. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 64–65
  10. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 88–90
  11. ^ "Sort keys for Icelandic names". WikiProject Iceland. Wikipedia. January 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2011.
  12. ^ Power, John (June 2008). "Japanese names" (PDF). The Indexer. 26 (2). Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  13. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.80
  14. ^ a b IFLA 1996, pp. 118–120
  15. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 145–149
  16. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.81
  17. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 185–186
  18. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.82
  19. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 211–213
  20. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 232–234
  21. ^ Alakas, Meral (April 2007). "Turkish names" (PDF). The Indexer. 25 (3). Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  22. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 108–110
  23. ^ "Scottish Surnames and Variants". Scotland's people. Scotland. Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  24. ^ Moore, Donald (April 1990). "The Indexing of Welsh personal names" (PDF). The Indexer. 17 (1). Retrieved January 10, 2012.
  25. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.37
  26. ^ a b c Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.38
  27. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.41
  28. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.72
  29. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.39
  30. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.71
  31. ^ Butcher's copy-editing 2006, p. 195
  32. ^ Chicago Manual of Style 2003, p. 18.69
  33. ^ IFLA 1996, pp. 252–253
  34. ^ Indexing Books 2005, p. 169
  35. ^ a b Pitchford, Jacqueline (October 2006). "Dutch, German, Austrian, Flemish and Afrikaans names" (PDF). The Indexer. 25 (2). Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  36. ^ a b IFLA 1996, pp. 29–31
  37. ^ "Defaultsort". WikiProject Football. Wikipedia. June 2011. Retrieved January 17, 2012.