I would like to keep a list of terms in an org file, lets say glossary.org:

* ABC<<<abc>>>
  other name for alphabet
* foo<<<foo>>>
  see bar
* bar<<<bar>>>
  see foo

Now while foo and bar would be created as internal links to the radio targets correctly, I want to use this glossary in another org mode file, so that the occurrences are converted in to links to these entries in e.g. a paragraph like this (in somefile.org):

Variables are always called foo and bar.  No exceptions.

I want to have the words foo and bar correctly linked to the entries in glossary.org (automatically, as described in the documentation about radio targets)

Is there a way to have these kinds of cross-file radio targets? Even more convenient would be not to have to tag every headline in glossary.org as being a radio target, since all entries in that file are possible radio targets.


3 Answers 3


No, What you want probably isn't possible without some extreme customization. However, Org once again surprises me with how well the default behavior works, included files with links are treated the same as links within the file. (If you aren't familiar with the syntay, say you have the glossary in glossary.txt, add the line #+include: glossary.txt to the file.) After exporting, radio targets in the included file are linked. This doesn't show the links while editing, but does allow for quite a bit of organization in the files.

  • I am usually in for extreme customization :), however, the #+include tip is really good.
    – timor
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 9:46

I plan on using one dictionary for everything, I'd prefer not to include the entire file for each document.

I have this in my .emacs:

(setq org-link-abbrev-alist
  '(("google" . "http://www.google.com/search?q=")
("dictionary" . "file:~/Brainbank/main/dictionary.org::")))

Then include a link to the file:


It's not automated, and a little cumbersome. This has an advantage of permitting the descriptive text to be different from the target (for plurals etc.)

I hope this helps, a little late, but it may help someone else :)

  • I do this too, but it would be nice to have the convenience of cross-file radio targets
    – Tyler
    Commented May 9, 2017 at 16:05

You may consider putting your glossary in another format. For example, I use list definitions to accomplish what you are after, for example:

* List of Acronyms

- <<<ABI>>> :: Application Binary Interface
- <<<API>>> :: Application Programming Interface
- <<<DOR>>> :: Documentation Requirement
  :TAGS: requirement
  Anything related to documentation it self not the specific content like "documents must be in a diff-able format".
- <<<HTML>>> :: HyperText Markup Language
  Almost everyone knows this nowadays :)

EDIT: This helps to avoid repeating the acronym as radio target.

You still can use the tip of @user2699 and #+include your glossary file. The auto links to radio targes are inserted on export, but not in org mode.

  • Looks interesting, but does it help in putting the list of definitions in an external file?
    – timor
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 9:11
  • No, it just helps you to avoid repeating the acronym as radio target.
    – theldoria
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 10:42
  • Note that you cannot put properties on plain list items. Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 7:03

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