Basic Formal Ontology

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Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) is a top-level ontology developed by Barry Smith and his associates for the purposes of promoting interoperability among domain ontologies built in its terms through a process of downward population.[1] A guide to building BFO-conformant domain ontologies was published by MIT Press in 2015.[2] The standard, "ISO/IEC 21838-2"., is currently under development.

The structure of BFO is based on a division of entities into two disjoint categories of continuant and occurrent, the former consists of objects and spatial regions, the latter contains processes conceived as extended through (or spanning) time. BFO thereby seeks to consolidate both time and space within a single framework.


BFO has been adopted as a foundational ontology by over 450 ontology projects,[3] principally in the areas of biomedical ontology,[4] security and defense (intelligence) ontology,[5] and industry ontologies[6].[1] Example applications of BFO can be seen in the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI).

In 2021, the standard ISO/IEC 21838-2:2021 Information technology — Top-level ontologies (TLO) — Part 2: Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) was published by the Joint Technical Committee of the International Standards Organization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.[7] ISO/IEC 21838 is a multi-part standard. Part 1 of the standard[8] specifies the requirements that must be met if an ontology is to be classified as a top-level ontology in accordance with the standard.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) 2020". Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  2. ^ Arp, Robert; Smith, Barry; Spear, Andrew D. (2015). Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-52781-1.
  3. ^ "Ontologies and institutions/groups using BFO". Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). Retrieved 2 December 2022.
  4. ^ Open Biomedical Ontologies Foundry (OBO).
  5. ^ Peter Morosoff, Ron Rudnicki, Jason Bryant, Robert Farrell and Barry Smith, "Joint Doctrine Ontology: A Benchmark for Military Information Systems Interoperability", in Semantic Technology for Intelligence, Defense and Security (STIDS). CEUR vol. 1325. pp. 2-9 (2015).
  6. ^ Industrial Ontologies Foundry
  7. ^
  8. ^

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