Markup Language

What Does Markup Language Mean?

A markup language is a type of language used to annotate text and embed tags in accurately styled electronic documents, irrespective of computer platform, operating system, application or program.


The term markup language is derived from the marking up of manuscripts, where handwritten markups were annotated in the form of printer instructions. Markup languages are also used in playlists, vector graphics, Web services and user interfaces. HTML is the most widely used markup language.

Techopedia Explains Markup Language

There are three types of electronic markup language:

  • Presentational Markup: Used by traditional word processing systems with WYSIWYG; it is hidden from human users.
  • Procedural Markup: Integrated with text to provide text processing instructions to programs. Such text is visibly manipulated by the author. Procedural markup systems include programming constructs, where macros or subroutines are defined and invoked by name.
  • Descriptive Markup: Used to label parts of a document as to how they should be treated. For example, the HTML <cite> tag is used to label citations in text.

Gencode was the first public markup language presentation in computer text processing. Some other major markup languages include:

  • LaTex
  • Extensible Markup Language (XML)
  • Generalized Markup Language (GML)
  • Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)
  • HyperText Markup Language (HTML)

Markup languages generally intertwine document text with markup instructions in the same data or file stream. The codes enclosed in angle-brackets (<>) are markup instructions (also known as tags), and the text between these instructions is the actual document text. Codes that appear near the beginning and end of the first statement are known as semantic markup and describe the included text. In contrast, presentational markup specifies a particular text characteristic without a description.


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Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…