Abstract In this paper we confront the divide between the ontologies developed from the requirement of comprehensive and general domain coverage and those devised to meet application-specific requirements. While the generalists typically attach philosophical sophistication to their approach, in supposed contrast to the narrow remit chosen by the application-bound knowledge engineers, we would like to indicate that the latter practice can often reflect a multi-faceted rationale, nuanced by the requirements of the domain. We demonstrate how the necessity of placing ontology-based systems with the work-practices of domain experts introduces unique demands on design rationales and enforces, often implicitly, a philosophical assessment of the necessary concepts and relations that balance the generality and specificity. Such demands are not addressed by generic approaches to modelling the reality of a domain. Indeed, we articulate the philosophical and practical considerations that we have taken into account when developing an application-specific ontology. We would certainly hope that our experiences can be of help to the development of ontologies in similar applications.