Unifying Language

Circular World™ Media
4 min readMay 6, 2024


The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘language’ as “the system of spoken or written communication used by a particular country, people, community, etc., typically consisting of words used within a regular grammatical and syntactic structure.” The dictionary provides the phrase, “speak the same language — understand one another as a result of shared opinions or values” — for example, “when it comes to business, we both speak the same language.

I created The Circular Economy Glossary of Terms based on the notion that people can improve their understanding of one another by sharing opinions and values through a common language.

I am not alone in believing a common language can support an ideal for the future. In 2010, a Tunisian street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in protest against his treatment by local government authorities. Bouazizi’s actions triggered mass demonstrations across Tunisia, further igniting protests across the Arab world. It was called the Arab Spring.

Many institutions and governments around the world saw an opening for the seedlings of democracy to be planted. Certainly, a lofty goal to aspire to, given the nature of the long history of political economics in the Middle East. To assist whole populations in grasping the process towards democracy, local and international NGOs and institutions started with language. The Arabic Lexicon of Electoral Terminology (2014) and the Arab Electoral Dictionary (2014) were published.

“Having various expressions that in some countries refer to the same electoral concepts, roles and activities has created confusion. This unified lexicon will act as a reference not only to election administrations in the region but to all election stakeholders.” Dr Hisham Kuhail, President of the Palestine Central Election Commission.

The Law and Language

Another area where definitions and language are critical is in legal documents, Regulations, and Acts. There is always a section on Definitions or Interpretations to reduce the risk of misunderstanding and ensure clarity if there is any dispute.

Definitions clauses, also known as contract definitions, are the defined terms in a legal document. Drafting definition clauses mitigates the chance of misunderstanding interpretations among the parties. The defined terms section should be unambiguous and written in plain language.

The Making of the Circular Economy Glossary of Terms

It started out as a simple idea to list the language of the circular economy — except for the fact that the circular economy has a very small and limited language. So, I had to expand it — and keep expanding it — so it could be relevant and useful to a broader audience while adhering to the overall objective of addressing climate change, sustainability, ESG, and the circular economy.

At some point, I was faced with the decision of whether to split up the Glossary into industry sectors or themes. In the end, I decided to publish one Glossary covering as many industry sectors as reasonably feasible as a way to facilitate the joy of discovering new words and terms.


The recent edition will be updated yet again. Why? Over the last several weeks, additional terms and definitions have crossed my desk. The current edition was updated to include more terms from the building industry, specifically around embodied carbon and emissions.

Other considerations came from academia, as researchers can use technical terms not common to most of us. For example, the terms,

  • Environmental Kuznets Curve (EKC) hypothesis
  • IPAT — the environmental impacts (I), as a function of population (P), affluence (A) and technology (T).
  • STIRPAT — Stochastic Impacts by Regression on Population, Affluence, and Technology

come from an academic paper, ‘Does circular economy mitigate the extraction of natural resources? Empirical evidence based on analysis of 28 European economies over the past decade’ by Marco Bianchi and Mauro Cordella, published in Ecological Economics, 2023.

If academics and researchers across the world are to collaborate on biodiversity, climate change and resource scarcity, knowing where to find the meaning of a technical term may just help bridge the communication gap and add value to research papers.

A Work in Progress

The Circular Economy Glossary of Terms will be a work in progress for some time yet. There are additional terms to include, decisions to make as to how far to extend it and probably more images to make it interesting and readable. I am now in the process of soliciting constructive feedback and potential partners who see value in supporting this initiative by endorsing or just using it.


If you would like to download a copy, click here: The Circular Economy Glossary of Terms

Ms Adrienna Zsakay is the Founder and CEO of Circular Economy Asia Inc, and this article represents her opinions on the circular economy. Circular Economy Pick of the Week is brought to you by Circular World™ Media — a brand owned by Circular Economy Asia Inc.


Oxford English Dictionary — Language

Tunisian Revolution — Wikipedia

Definitions Clause — Contracts Counsel



Circular World™ Media

Circular World™ Media is owned by Circular Economy Asia Incorporated. Registered in Australia, based in Malaysia. We focus on resource management & efficiency