← 4.5.7 The li elementTable of contents4.5.9 The dt element →

4.5.8 The dl element

Flow content.
If the element's children include at least one name-value group: Palpable content.
Contexts in which this element can be used:
Where flow content is expected.
Content model:
Zero or more groups each consisting of one or more dt elements followed by one or more dd elements.
Content attributes:
Global attributes
DOM interface:
interface HTMLDListElement : HTMLElement {};

The dl element represents an association list consisting of zero or more name-value groups (a description list). Each group must consist of one or more names (dt elements) followed by one or more values (dd elements). Within a single dl element, there should not be more than one dt element for each name.

Name-value groups may be terms and definitions, metadata topics and values, questions and answers, or any other groups of name-value data.

The values within a group are alternatives; multiple paragraphs forming part of the same value must all be given within the same dd element.

The order of the list of groups, and of the names and values within each group, may be significant.

If a dl element is empty, it contains no groups.

If a dl element has one or more non-whitespace Text node children, or has child elements that are neither dt nor dd elements, all such Text nodes and elements, as well as their descendants (including any dt or dd elements), do not form part of any groups in that dl.

If a dl element has one or more dt element children but no dd element children, then it consists of one group with names but no values.

If a dl element has one or more dd element children but no dt element children, then it consists of one group with values but no names.

If a dl element's first dt or dd element child is a dd element, then the first group has no associated name.

If a dl element's last dt or dd element child is a dt element, then the last group has no associated value.

When a dl element doesn't match its content model, it is often due to accidentally using dd elements in the place of dt elements and vice versa. Conformance checkers can spot such mistakes and might be able to advise authors how to correctly use the markup.

In the following example, one entry ("Authors") is linked to two values ("John" and "Luke").

 <dt> Authors
 <dd> John
 <dd> Luke
 <dt> Editor
 <dd> Frank

In the following example, one definition is linked to two terms.

 <dt lang="en-US"> <dfn>color</dfn> </dt>
 <dt lang="en-GB"> <dfn>colour</dfn> </dt>
 <dd> A sensation which (in humans) derives from the ability of
 the fine structure of the eye to distinguish three differently
 filtered analyses of a view. </dd>

The following example illustrates the use of the dl element to mark up metadata of sorts. At the end of the example, one group has two metadata labels ("Authors" and "Editors") and two values ("Robert Rothman" and "Daniel Jackson").

 <dt> Last modified time </dt>
 <dd> 2004-12-23T23:33Z </dd>
 <dt> Recommended update interval </dt>
 <dd> 60s </dd>
 <dt> Authors </dt>
 <dt> Editors </dt>
 <dd> Robert Rothman </dd>
 <dd> Daniel Jackson </dd>

The following example shows the dl element used to give a set of instructions. The order of the instructions here is important (in the other examples, the order of the blocks was not important).

<p>Determine the victory points as follows (use the
first matching case):</p>
 <dt> If you have exactly five gold coins </dt>
 <dd> You get five victory points </dd>
 <dt> If you have one or more gold coins, and you have one or more silver coins </dt>
 <dd> You get two victory points </dd>
 <dt> If you have one or more silver coins </dt>
 <dd> You get one victory point </dd>
 <dt> Otherwise </dt>
 <dd> You get no victory points </dd>

The following snippet shows a dl element being used as a glossary. Note the use of dfn to indicate the word being defined.

 <dt><dfn>Apartment</dfn>, n.</dt>
 <dd>An execution context grouping one or more threads with one or
 more COM objects.</dd>
 <dt><dfn>Flat</dfn>, n.</dt>
 <dd>A deflated tire.</dd>
 <dt><dfn>Home</dfn>, n.</dt>
 <dd>The user's login directory.</dd>

The dl element is inappropriate for marking up dialogue. Examples of how to mark up dialogue are shown below.