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In machine learning and natural language processing (NLP), embedding refers to the representation of categorical data, such as words or phrases, in a high-dimensional space where similar entities are closer together. These representations are in the form of dense vectors of real numbers. The approach is designed to reduce dimensionality and to reveal the underlying structure of the data in a way that is more helpful for machine learning tasks.


Word embedding represents words in a coordinate system where related words are placed nearer to each other. This process leverages the context of words in the corpora, following the linguistic axiom, “a word is characterized by the company it keeps.” Consequently, words that are often used in similar contexts—like “dog” and “puppy”—end up having similar vector representations. This enables the model to generalize from word to phrase level, facilitating better performance in tasks like text classification, sentiment analysis, and language translation.

The essence of embedding is to translate high dimensionality data (like words) into a lower-dimensional, continuous vector space where the semantics of the data are preserved. They allow for richer representations where machine learning algorithms can detect nuanced patterns. While initially popular with text data, these techniques are now being used on a wide array of data types, including graphs, images, and any form of categorical data. It’s a foundational technique enabling advancements in various AI applications, particularly in the domain of language understanding.

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