This guideline concerns the categorization of biographical articles of people. This includes:

General considerations[edit]

Categorize by characteristics of the person, not characteristics of the article: E.g., do not add [[Category:Biography]] to an article. Sub-categories of Category:Biography (genre) may legitimately contain articles about biographical films or biographical books, but should not contain articles about individual people. The article is a biography; the person is not.

Keep people categories separate. Categories with a title indicating that the contents are people, should normally only contain biographical articles and lists of people, and perhaps a non-biographical main article, though this can also be added at the top of the category. This is for clarity and ease of use, and to preserve the integrity of trees of people articles.

Categorize by defining characteristics

Further information: Wikipedia:Categorization § Defining, and Wikipedia:Overcategorization § Defining

One of the central goals of the categorization system is to categorize articles by their defining characteristics:

The defining characteristics of an article's topic are central to categorizing the article. A defining characteristic is one that reliable sources commonly and consistently refer to[1] in describing the topic, such as the nationality of a person or the geographic location of a place.

Biographical articles should be categorized by defining characteristics. As a rule of thumb for main biographies this includes:

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.

Sensitive categories

Main pages: Wikipedia:Categorization/Ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, and disability and WP:BLPCAT

See also: Wikipedia:NPOV tutorial § Categorization, and Wikipedia:Contentious labels

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

This includes categories that might suggest a person has a poor reputation, and categories that belong in the categorization tree of Category:Criminals. For example, Categorizing a politician involved in a scandal as a "criminal" would create much more controversy than categorizing a behaviour or act as "criminal".

Likewise, watch for category intersections where at least one of the categories of the intersection is sensitive. 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.[2]

And not all categories are comprehensive. For some sensitive categories, it may be better to think of the category as a set of representative and unquestioned examples, while a list is a better venue for an attempt at completeness. Particularly for sensitive categories, lists can be used as a complement to categorization. See also Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and series boxes.

Double check: Anyone may edit an article and remove a questionable categorization. Always check after saving an article whether the categorization strikes you as offensive or indelicate. To avoid that, use discernment to find those categories you think are most to the point and inoffensive. If necessary, create a new category that better serves what you want to communicate, rather than using an existing category that is (partly) inconsistent with the content of the article. But bear in mind the principle that "Wikipedia is not censored", so if something is offensive but has encyclopedic value it might still be appropriate.

Addressing problematic categorization

See Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/Howto instructions for how to use the templates for: deletion (((cfd))), renaming (((cfr))), or merging (((cfm))).

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

If you have a proposal for a better name for the category or for a wider re-arrangement of the categorization scheme; or if the category violates one or more sections of Wikipedia:Categorization/Ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, and disability, Wikipedia:Overcategorization, Wikipedia:Eponymous categories, or other Wikipedia policies and guidelines; please nominate it for discussion at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion.

Inappropriate categorization

If an article about a person has an "incorrect" or "inappropriate" category, remove that category from the article, and replace it (if applicable) with a more correct category.

If the categorization is "correct" and the category seems reasonable, but yet 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 participate in or post new discussions on the discussion page of the category. Consider whether you can invite more potentially interested people to take part in the discussion, for example by discussing it at a relevant WikiProject. If you are in a content dispute, see Wikipedia:Dispute resolution for what to do next.

Also consider whether you can solve (part of) the problem by writing a clearer category description.

Ordering names in a category[edit]

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.

Please note that some named individual animal have titles included in the article name (for example, Sergeant Stubby, a dog with a formal military rank) and are therefore subject to this guideline.

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.[3]

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


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