HTML <dl> Tag
<dl> tag represents a description list in an HTML document.
In a description list (also known as an association list or a definition list), each list item contains two or more entries; a term (
dt) and a description (
Note that a definition term can be linked to more than one description. There can also be multiple terms for a single description (for example, in the case where there are multiple spellings of a term being defined). In this case, each term must be enclosed in its own set of
dt tags (there shouldn't be any more than one term within a single
Also note that the defintion term (
dt) does not indicate that its contents are a term being defined, but this can be indicated using the
<dl> tag is written as
</dl> with the
<dd> elements inserted between the start and end tag. The number of those elements will depend on the number of definition terms and descriptions in the list.
Basic tag usage
Here's an example of a basic description list.
dfn to Define a Term
<dt> element does not indicate that its contents are a term being defined. To indicate the defining instance of a term, use the
Here's an example of using multiple
<dt> elements for a single
You can have more than one
<dd> element for each
<dt> element (any given term could have multiple definitions). Each
<dd> element provides a separate description.
You can have nested description lists if your descriptions are more complex. You can also have paragraphs and other elements.
In fact, the
<dd> element can contain "flow content" so you can nest most other elements inside the
<dd> element ("flow content" refers to most HTML elements that can appear within the
<body> of an HTML document).
Here's an example of a description list that contains a
<p> element, an ordered (
<ol>) and unordered list (
<ul>) among its definition descriptions.
Attributes can be added to an HTML element to provide more information about how the element should appear or behave.
There are 3 kinds of attributes that you can add to your HTML tags: Element-specific, global, and event handler content attributes.
<dl> element accepts the following attributes.
This table shows the attributes that are specific to the
The following attributes are standard across all HTML5 elements. Therefore, you can use these attributes with the
<dl> tag , as well as with all other HTML tags.
For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 global attributes.
Event Handler Content Attributes
Event handler content attributes enable you to invoke a script from within your HTML. The script is invoked when a certain "event" occurs. Each event handler content attribute deals with a different event.
Below are the standard HTML5 event handler content attributes.
Again, you can use any of these with the
<dl> element, as well as any other HTML5 element.
For a full explanation of these attributes, see HTML 5 event handler content attributes.
Differences Between HTML 4 & HTML 5
None. Although note that the HTML5 specification refers to the lists as "association lists" and "description lists", whereas HTML 4 referred to them as "definition lists".
To see more detail on the two versions see HTML5
<dl> Tag and HTML4
<dl> Tag. Also check out the links to the official specifications below.
Here's a template for the
<dl> tag with all available attributes for the tag (based on HTML5). These are grouped into attribute types, each type separated by a space. In many cases, you will probably only need one or two (if any) attributes. Simply remove the attributes you don't need.
Note that the
<dl> element does not actually have any local attributes (i.e. attributes that are specific to the element), but the following global attributes and event handlers are available to the element (and all other HTML elements).
For more information on attributes for this tag, see HTML5
<dl> Tag and HTML4
For more details about the
<dl> tag, see HTML5
<dl> Tag and HTML4
Here are the official specifications for the
- HTML5 Specification (W3C)
- HTML Living Standard (WHATWG)
- Current W3C Draft (the next version that is currently being worked on)
- HTML 4 (W3C)
What's the Difference?
W3C creates "snapshot" specifications that don't change once defined. So the HTML5 specification won't change once it becomes an official recommendation. WHATWG on the other hand, develops a "living standard" that is updated on a regular basis. In general, you will probably find that the HTML living standard will be more closely aligned to the current W3C draft than to the HTML5 specification.