XBRL Glossary of Terms

The following essential terms should be understood with respect to XBRL:


The taxonomy is a set of system-readable files, that define the various business concepts (called Elements), certain rules and their inter-relationships. Taxonomies consists of Schema file(s) and Linkbase file(s).


The schema files defines all the business concepts and identify them with a unique name. It also defines certain rules for these concepts like the data type (text / date / monetary) and its substitution groups (like Item or Tuple). Any Instance Document created has to report data by referring to these unique names.


The linkbases file define additional information relating to the elements defined in the schema like their labels and interrelationships. There are different types of linkbase files each with a specific purpose. These linkbases alongwith their purpose are mentioned below:

  • Presentation Linkbase: Relates the business elements in a heirarchical manner (Tree Structure).
  • Calculation Linkbase: Defines calculation relationships between elements like subtotals and grandtotals.
  • Label Linkbase: Defines the label for each element. Multiple labels can be defined for the same element like for example: Separate labels for different languages (English, Hindi), or for different values (like Profit for + value and Loss for - value), or for different periods (like Opening Balance of Fixed Assets and Closing Balance of Fixed Assets) depending on whether the value is reported as on a period beginning date or the period ending date, or for different purposes like short label and long label.
  • Definition Linkbase: The definition linkbase stores other pre-defined or self-defined relationships between elements. For example a relationship can be defined that the occurrence of one concept within an XBRL instance mandates the occurrence of other concepts, or relationships describing elements of general nature and elements which are very specific or elements which can be categorized based on parameters etc.
  • Reference Linkbase: Most of the elements appearing in taxonomies refer to particular concepts defined by authoritative literature. The reference linkbase stores the relationships between elements and the references e.g. Schedule VI, Part A or Accounting standard 23, para 2 etc. . The layer does not store the regulations themselves but the source identification names and paragraphs.
  • Formula Linkbase: This linkbase concept is under development by XBRL International. When commissioned it will be used to define formula relationships between elements and describing consistency checks for instance document.

Instance Document

The output XBRL Document generated for a particular organization and for a particular period like Balance Sheet of XYZ Limited for the period ended 31-03-2011 in XBRL format is one instance document.

Items and Tuples

Some items are reported independently like Cash in Hand as on this date: Rs. 34000/-. Here the Concept CashInHand is an item. However certain concepts are reported as a set of information. Like for Directors, it might be required to report FirstNameOfDirector, SurnameOfDirector, DINofDirector. All these three elements have to read together to make meaning of the concept. For this purpose a separate element like DetailsOfDirectors is defined which is of the substitution type TUPLE and under which the various individual items are reported. Thus in case of Tuples we might report 3 directors, and under each the respective first name, last name and DIN Numbers.


The value reported for a concept has no meaning until we specify which Entity this value pertains to and which period / date it relates to. For this purpose, there is a need to attach Contexts to each reported item. Each context has to be defined with a unique ID and this ID is referenced in the individual items. For example, for satisfying MCA requirement we might need to define 5 contexts for your organization. "D2011" - for the period (duration) 2010-11, "D2010" meaning period (duration) 2009-10, "I2011" meaning the as on Instant Date 31/03/2011, "I2010" meaning 31/03/2010 and "I2009" meaning 31/03/2009. (The I2009 context might be required if we are required to report any figures for the opening balance of last year).


Each reported numeric value must have a defined unit attached to it. For example CashInHand 34000 should have the Unit INR attached to it. Any percentage/proportion value should have a unit called "PURE" attached to it having value in decimal notation (i.e. 50% should be reported as 0.5).