I want to make sure my understanding is correct in regards to what happens to a Document Library items' Managed Metadata column value when updating a Term in a Term Set.

This is displayed when merging a Term into another Term in the Term Store Management Tool:

enter image description here

Note that it clearly states:

Although content already tagged with this term will continue to be tagged as before...

Based on this, I tried to document my understanding of what occurs when updating a Term:

When Terms are added, updated or removed from the Term Store, the available Terms available for selection from a Managed Metadata column that is referencing the relevant Term Set are also updated, however previously selected choices do not change in Document Library item column values, this is also true when:

  • A term is 'merged' with another term (the column value will remain 'old_term' - it will not change to 'new_term')
  • A term is 'deprecated'

However, I have just tested this theory and merged old_term into new_term and about 30 minutes later a document item column value has automatically changed from old_term to new_term.

My understanding above, therefore, does not seem to be correct.

Q1) Why did that happen when the prompt window said it wouldn't?

Is it because old_term is automatically added as an Other Label for new_term and therefore SharePoint just changes that value? Would the column value revert back to old_term if I removed old_term as an Other Label for new_term - or has it permanently changed to new_term?

I would also like to know:

Q2) What happens when a library item is opened for Editing, does the column option value change to new_term because old_term is automatically added to the Other Labels section of the term?

Q3) Why does the list at:


contain two items both called new_term (i can see that old_term is no longer there)

Q4) Are there any other scenarios where updating a Term in a Term Set will change document library item managed metadata column values?

Q5) In the interests of creating a thorough knowledge resource, what happens to Document Library column item values when you perform each of the other available actions on a Term, ie:

  • Rename
  • Copy
  • Reuse
  • Pin with Children
  • Deprecate
  • Move
  • Delete

Screenshot of Term context menu
enter image description here

Q6) What happens if you rename a Term Set?

Q6a) Do associated Managed Metadata columns present the same options for selection?
Q6b) Do associated Managed Metadata column values stay the same?


  • Browser: Chrome Version 90.0.4430.212 (Official Build) (64-bit)
  • SharePoint Online
  • Microsoft Team SharePoint Site Document Library

Related Reading:

Changing Managed Metadata values in SharePoint Online

How to properly delete and hide managed metadata terms in the Term Store

A Basic Guide to Term Store Management in SharePoint Online

Create and manage terms in a term set

Create, configure, and manage groups and term sets

Introduction to managed metadata in SharePoint

Introduction to managed metadata

Create a Managed Metadata column

Microsoft Video: 'Getting started with metadata and taxonomy on content in Microsoft 365'


Below are results of testing various actions.

Any clarifications or confirmations of these observations would be appreciated:

Rename - all items previously tagged with old_term will change to old_term_renamed

Merge - all items previously tagged with old_term will change to new_term

Deprecate - all items previously tagged with deprecated_term will remain tagged with deprecated_term

Rename a Term Set:

  • associated Managed Metadata columns present the same options for selection
  • associated Managed Metadata column values stay the same

Note that the automatic changes cited above do not happen immediately, in my case they occur about 30 minutes afterwards, which means, in the interim, document libraries are showing 'out of date' information.

  • Looks like you are already on it in a good way. To my understanding and experience updating or merging terms in Term Store updates all items having this value. The only exception is Delete, then the values in the items keep the value. – Gil Roitto Jun 4 at 9:10

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