# [whatwg] Definition list and tables: what's the difference ?

David Latapie david at empyree.org
Tue Feb 13 06:40:13 PST 2007

```Hello and thank you for your reply,

On Tue, 13 Feb 2007 14:35:15 +0100, Alexey Feldgendler wrote:
> The fundamental difference between tables and definition lists is
> that a table
> is a two-dimensional mapping of a pair of axes to one value, and a
> definition
> list is a uni-dimensional mapping of a term to one or more
> definitions. While
> there are some cases when either a table or a definition list can be
> used at
> author's choice, generally their use cases are different.
>
> The most notable case when a table is inappropriate to replace a
> definition list
> is when a definition list contains multiple definitions for each term
> or group
> of terms. While multiple definitions can be either stuffed into one
> table cell
> or laid out in a row, both solutions seem like a workaround.

IMHO, most tables (particularly on the Web and of course discarding
layout tables) really are one-dimensional (cross-tabs are the
two-dimensional ones).

See below:

Simple (one key, one value)
• TH   TD

• DT
DD

More common (one key, several values)
• TH   TD   TD

• DT
DD
DD

(Pure) Synonyms (several keys, one value)
•  TH
TD
TH

• DT
DT
DD
(semantically broken, do-not-use)

Cross-tab
•       TH
TH   TD

•  <impossible>

Complex cross-tab
•       TH   TH   (colspan or rowspan)
-----+-----+-----
TH |     |
-----+     +------
TH |     |
-----+-----+-----
TH |     |
-----+-----+-----

• <impossible>

My humble point: <table> can do everything <dl> can, whilst the reverse
is not true. He who can do more can do less.

Any thought on this?
--
</david_latapie>             U+0F00
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```