The Common Core Ontologies (CCO)

The Common Core Ontologies (CCO) comprise twelve open-source ontologies which are designed to represent and integrate taxonomies of generic classes and relations across all domains of interest.

CCO comprise twelve ontologies that contain classes and relations that are used in many, if not all, domains of interest. CCO is a mid-level extension of Basic Formal Ontology (BFO), an upper-level ontology framework widely used to structure and integrate ontologies in the biomedical domain (Arp, et al., 2015). BFO aims to represent the most generic categories of entity and the most generic types of relations that hold between them, by defining a small number of classes and relations. CCO then extends from BFO in the sense that every class in CCO is asserted to be a subclass of some class in BFO, and that CCO adopts the generic relations defined in BFO (e.g., has_part) (Smith and Grenon, 2004). Accordingly, CCO classes and relations are heavily constrained by the BFO framework, from which it inherits much of its basic semantic relationships.

The utility of the CCO comes from preventing BFO-compliant domain-specific ontologies from needlessly duplicating common concepts or from forcing such ontologies to include concepts outside of their domain. The CCO files are available at