Ontology is a burgeoning field, involving researchers from the computer science, philosophy, data and software engineering, logic, linguistics, and terminology domains. Many ontology-related terms with precise meanings in one of these domains have different meanings in others. Our purpose here is to initiate a path towards disambiguation of such terms. We draw primarily on the literature of biomedical informatics, not least because the problems caused by unclear or ambiguous use of terms have been there most thoroughly addressed. We advance a proposal resting on a distinction of three levels too often run together in biomedical ontology research: 1. the level of reality; 2. the level of cognitive representations of this reality; 3. the level of textual and graphical artifacts. We propose a reference terminology for ontology research and development that is designed to serve as common hub into which the several competing disciplinary terminologies can be mapped. We then justify our terminological choices through a critical treatment of the ‘concept orientation’ in biomedical terminology research.