XML.com FAQs > A. General questions
Question:  A.5 Aren't XML, SGML, and HTML all the same thing?

Not quite; SGML is the mother tongue, and has been used for describing thousands of different document types in many fields of human activity, from transcriptions of ancient Irish manuscripts to the technical documentation for stealth bombers, and from patients' clinical records to musical notation. SGML is very large and complex, however, and probably overkill for most common applications.

XML is an abbreviated version of SGML, to make it easier for you to define your own document types, and to make it easier for programmers to write programs to handle them. It omits all the options, and most of the more complex and less-used parts of SGML in return for the benefits of being easier to write applications for, easier to understand, and more suited to delivery and interoperability over the Web. But it is still SGML, and XML files may still be processed in the same way as any other SGML file (see the question on XML software).

HTML is just one of the SGML or XML applications, the one most frequently used in the Web.

Technical readers may find it more useful to think of XML as being SGML-- rather than HTML++.

This FAQ is from The XML FAQ, maintained by Peter Flynn