I'm translating our project vocabulary to English and I got uncertain if the particular item below is truly English or only Englishish.

Registry number

The concept it's supposed to convey is the identification text for a record in the registry (sort of a name but guaranteed to be unique). The Swedish term is diarienummer, so optically, number is to be preferred as it would make it intuitively recognizable, because of the partial resemblance. However, that logic would imply that ham comes from a hamster, which it does not.

The actual value doesn't need to be numeric. In fact, it's likely that it won't be. A few examples that might be entered are shown below. Of course, I'm aware that a number can be anoted using roman numericals but that's rather a value (not necessarily a number). Also, I've seen a discussion claiming that the value of MIX is: the number 991 if regarded as such but the concept of blended mixture if regarded so.

Monkey Donkey 2019:10-a32
Hamster Ham 2020:04-666
Abra Kadabra Poof 2020:01-1

I was considering registry ID, RIN (like PIN but for registry and not a person). But not being NSE, I'm too cautious to make a judgement call. The primary target is to be perfectly correct linguistically. The convenience and recognizability are secondary, although nice to have.

  • Does registry number sound natural as an ID to NSE despite not being a numeric value?
  • If not (or if not perfectly right), what would be an appropriate alternative?
  • What do we call the meat that comes from a hamster's gluteal muscles? (Sorry, couldn't resist...)

3 Answers 3


Sure, this happens in English all the time:

  • Americans refer to their car's license plate number or just plate number and these frequently/usually contain letters in addition to digits: just try a Google image search. Britons similarly refer to the car's number plate and it's not purely numeric there either.

  • Serial numbers and model numbers of consumer devices very often contain letters.

  • Gate numbers at airports usually include a letter, like "A21."

I'm sure we could come up with many more examples.

Americans would probably be more comfortable with "registration number," as registry number seems to suggest an identification of the registry itself rather than the entry in the registry, but I think this is more acceptable/normal in the U.K. But the fact that the "number" may also contain digits or other symbols is not a problem.

  • 1
    Great point on registry number being ambiguous. You claim it implies (or at least suggests) the (identification) number of a (particular) registry (in a set of many registries), right? Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:53
  • @KonradViltersten That's right.
    – TypeIA
    Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 11:12

The natural phrase to use in English would be 'index number' or 'index ref'. You could also use 'catalogue ref' or 'catalogue ID' if it is a large listing.

  • Isn't index implying that it's a sequence of numbers or references? As if they are ordered in some particular way for look-up? (In my case, it's actually true so your suggestion is valid but I'm curious for future reference/readers in a general case.) Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 10:00

It does sound natural.

If you are looking for a more strictly correct word for this translation, "identifier" should be your choice. ID is a shorthand for identifier (in this context). This word implies "guaranteed to be unique".

A PIN is not guaranteed to be unique despite its apparent meaning, and "RIN" would not be an understood term, so it may not be a good choice.

  • Ah, I see PIN interpretation you've made. Like for a credit card or SIM circuit, right? Those are strictly speaking not so much an indentifier but an authorizer. You identify yourself by putting the card into a slot. Then, you authorize (or maybe verify) that identity claim by PIN (or, correctly PAN or PVN). Probably, it's best with the latter because on occasion you also have to use CVV (card verification value, which technically speaking is CVN), being a sort of PIN alternative. Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 9:59

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