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Best free online language-specific monolingual and bilingual dictionaries

| 68 comments | Category: Tool and Resources

dict

Throw away your dusty old dead tree dictionaries! They are either too bulky (and expensive) to use conveniently, and not updated regularly enough, or they are too small to cover all the words you might need. It’s the 21st century, so lets embrace all the free online dictionaries available to us!

Multilingual dictionaries

When discussing the top free resources for language learning, I wanted to give tools that weren’t language specific, and as such I included the following multilingual dictionaries first:

Wordreference, Bab.la, Google Translate for wide-ranges of languages covered for general terms and Proz term search , the Interactive Terminology for Europe and Mymemory for technical vocabulary.

Some of these can actually be good dictionaries for specific languages, and as good as, or better than many dedicated specific language dictionaries. (In the comments, I got suggestions for other great multilingual dictionaries: The Free Dictionary, which is a monolingual dictionary in multiple languages! Just click the flags on the left, and Linguee for a bilingual dictionary that gives you the words in context rather than just translations or definitions, and is good for several languages).

I am a big fan of Wordreference for major European languages, especially French, Spanish, and Italian, since I generally find what I’m looking for there, either within their dictionary, or from the forum questions that come up in dictionary searches. It is also good for looking up conjugations of verbs in these languages if you are not sure. Google Translate seems to be the easiest one to use for less common languages, although I welcome alternatives below!

As well as these, I highly recommend using Wikipedia to search for the word in English and see a possible translation in the left. This is obviously better for proper names, or specific items (not verbs etc.). Otherwise, look it up in the Wikipedia specific to that language and see its English or other translation on that page. Finally, I like to use Google Image search to give myself a visual understanding of the word, without relying on translations.

Having said that, in this post, I want to list as many free dictionary websites that cater better to specific languages. As with the free-resources post, I will strive to keep this post as updated as possible, so I will list just a few at first and then hope that your comments can help me expand this list to make it a nice go to dictionary.

Also keep in mind that you can use many of these online dictionaries in conjunction with Learning With Texts for quick access to translations while you read.

Bilingual (and monolingual) dictionaries:

Now, keep in mind that I would highly recommend you don’t rely too much on bilingual dictionaries!! They can make us lazily just accept translations rather than truly try to understand a phrase and its component words, through context. If you want to start thinking in that language, then you should aim to learn the language via that language asap, and monolingual dictionaries are a great way to do that.

Their purpose of a dictionary for anyone but tourists should always be to help you learn a language, rather than to replace the learning process with instant translations. It’s why I opt to use monolingual dictionaries as soon as possible and have tried to include as many here below as possible.

Feel free to share both bidirectional dictionaries and monolingual dictionaries in the comments, especially for languages that I haven’t listed, and (as long as they are truly useful/extensive and free) I’ll add them here! Also let me know your feedback on the ones I have included, in case you find any of them less than adequate compared to alternatives.

As an addition, if you don’t find a monolingual dictionary for the language you want among those below, check out the many languages of Wiktionary and use the one in your target language!

This list is alphabetic – if you can’t find the language you are learning here yet, check out the multilingual dictionaries linked above.

American Sign Language:

  • ASL pro have a very useful dictionary for learners of this language, where you click through the alphabet and see the word visually signed for you via real videos by signers for each and every word. Excellent online resource that is totally free! On the same page, at tabs at the top, you have further specific dictionaries for religious terms, conversational phrases and signs for babies.
  • Signing Savvy is another one, although there are many features of this site blocked by paid membership. You can’t search, but you can go through the alphabetic list to click particular ones without registering. A free registration only gives you 5 searches per day. In most cases to look up single words, you can find them in the alphabetic list without signing up.

Chinese (Mandarin)

Chinese (Cantonese)

Czech:

Dutch

Egyptian Arabic

English:

  • Oxford dictionaries have an online searchable monolingual English database that contains 145,000 words and definitions; very useful for English learners among you!
  • Collins dictionary is a great monolingual one with several bilingual options too!
  • Urban dictionary is a resource I use even myself to find new slang terms in English, and acroyms that I haven’t come across yet, when they come up in casual situations
  • Cambridge Learner’s dictionary

Esperanto:

  • http://lernu.net/ Whenever I am not sure of a word in Esperanto, I use the free dictionary search tool built into this great Esperanto learning site. It works with many language combinations (Esperanto-English/French/Polish etc.)
  • Reta Vortaro is a great one, popular with many Esperantists
  • http://esperanto-panorama.net/vortaro/eoen.htm Not as extensive, but you can look through the entire list of terms alphabetically.
  • You can also use a monolingual Esperanto dictionary on http://vortaro.net/, after a free registration.

French

German:

  • dwds.de A monolingual German dictionary that goes into great detail for each word, including incredible context tabs and etymology.
  • http://www.duden.de/ As above, also gives tonnes of info for each word
  • http://dict.leo.org/  You can search directly between German and English/Spanish/French/Italian/Polish/Russian/Portuguese/Chinese, and many translations are offered.
  • http://www.dict.cc/ Another fantastic choice for a bilingual German dictionary.
  • http://de.pons.eu/ Yet another great alternative, that also has a tonne of combinations other than German-English. Note that you can use this as a great dictionary for Norwegian and other languages, as long as you use it through German.
  • http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/ And one more for luck!

Greek (Classical)

Hebrew

Hungarian:

Irish:

  • http://irishdictionary.ie/ Great single word dictionary, with accent mark clicks included if your keyboard isn’t configured yet. It also presents verb conjugations.
  • http://focal.ie/ This dictionary is better for technical terminology
  • http://www.potafocal.com A great alternative if you don’t find what you are looking for in the above two links.

Italian

Japanese

Korean

Latin

Polish:

Portuguese:

Russian:

Sign Language (Various sorts)

  • http://www.spreadthesign.com/ Doesn’t cover many words, but it does separate the signs based on which country, if you are learning several different national signs, or a non-American one!

Spanish:

Swedish

Turkish

Welsh

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I’m sure there are plenty missing from this list, so let us know in the comments below! If you didn’t know of these links before, then I hope you find them useful!

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Comments: If you liked this post or have anything to say, please leave a comment! I love reading them :)
Just keep in mind that I’ll delete any rude, trolling, spammy, irrelevant or way off-topic comments. Also, use your REAL name, not a brand or business one, and don’t link to your site in the comments unless it’s relevant to this post.
If you have a general language learning question, please ask it in the forums. Otherwise please use the search tool on the right for any other question not related to this post.

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  • Andras

    Hungarian bilingual…

    http://szotar.sztaki.hu/angol-magyar

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Great one! Just added it!

  • Kasia Wilson

    my favorite German dictionary: http://dict.tu-chemnitz.de/

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Added

  • iguanamon

    For Portuguese (BR) I recommend Dicionário Informal http://www.dicionarioinformal.com.br/ which is a very useful monolingual dictionary for those words and phrases in everyday speech that you won’t find in the Priberam dictionary. I also use Priberam regularly and it’s good. Linguee http://www.linguee.com.br/?moreLanguages=1#moreLanguages is not a dictionary per se, but shows words with bilingual sentences in context and is also good for French, Spanish, German and English and all their combinations. I consult Linguee almost everyday. Hope this helps learners of Portuguese.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Great suggestions! Added in both :) (Linguee is a good one for several languages, so I put it in the top)

  • Pete

    http://www.excite.co.jp/dictionary/ has Japanese monolingual as well as en-ja, ja-en, zh-ja, ja-zh.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Excellent! Japanese was definitely missing until now ;)

  • Tijana

    http://wordreference.com/

    This is my number one dictionary. I use it mostly for Spanish, but sometimes for other languages as well. It has a ton of useful options.

  • Arthur

    Le Littré (French) http://littre.reverso.net/dictionnaire-francais/

    Very famous, it is also available as a mobile app. (just look for Littré in the Store of your mobile platform)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Good find! It’s in!

  • Andy Strachan

    Dutch-Dutch, Dutch-English/German/French etc…

    http://www.vandale.nl

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      OK, it’s in!

  • http://georgemillo.com/ George Millo

    vdict.com is the best English/Vietnamese dictionary I’ve managed to find. Unfortunately it’s utter shite! If anyone knows of a better one please let me know. There are some other VNese dictionaries online but a lot of them seem to pull from the exact same database as Vdict.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Pity it’s shite! I won’t add it to the list then. Hopefully someone suggests a good one; otherwise see if any of the multilingual ones work well for Vietnamese!

      • http://georgemillo.com/ George Millo

        Yep, everyone loves bitching about how difficult Vietnamese is but I’ve found by far the hardest thing so far has been finding decent online resources for it! (Especially the southern, Saigon dialect which is quite different from the more “standard” northern one.) I hope someone else manages to find some decent resources for this list!

  • Norbi

    Another Hungarian bilingual dictionary:

    http://topszotar.hu/angolmagyar/

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Put it after the first one, thanks!

  • niko d.

    Cambridge Learner’s English-English Dictionary
    http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/learner-english/

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      OK, it’s there!

  • Norbi

    Maybe the best Spanish dictionary:

    http://www.spanishdict.com

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Added!

      • Caymane

        Indeed, an excellent site, good forum as well

  • niko d.
    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Great stuff! I added the second one to the French list, but the first one is actually a good monolingual dictionary for several languages!! So I mentioned it at the start. Cheers!

  • niko d.
    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Cool – don’t want to have an endless list of Chinese dictionaries, so I just added one. Thanks!

  • Jeff Donovan

    http://www.tubabel.com/ A monolingual dictionary for Spanish slang. Sort of a Spanish version of Urban Dictionary. Words are organized by which country they are used in.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Fantastic one!! Just added it :D

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Great stuff! Added both in :)

  • Daniel Chacón Navarro

    I have a question, unrelated to the topic, but, what do you think about learning a language through another language that is not your native language? Let me give you my example, my native language is Spanish, I learned English in school and in Highschool, I think I have a good level of English, probably around C1, right now I am learning Russian, I started by myself, I had to buy some Russian courses, a dictionary and reading materials, but all of those in English, because there weren’t many Spanish-Russian resources available, and the few ones I found out weren’t very reliable, I also want to learn Arabic and is the same story, there are not many Spanish-Arabic resources available.

    • Sam

      Sounds like a GREAT idea to me! I am still looking for a Japanese speaking Korean so that I can learn Japanese IN Korean, though my native language is English.

  • http://lifepart2.com/ Jonathan Look, Jr.

    Thanks for sharing this. Just moving around Asia requires many dictionaries. Figuring the language thing out was easier in the Americas.

  • Victor Berrjod

    My favourite Chinese dictionary is CantoDict: http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/scripts/wordsearch.php

    It’s a dictionary for both Cantonese and Mandarin, and they even have a parser: http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/parser/

    VisualMandarin is also a good one, although the “all” function doesn’t work for English searches, so you have to select that specifically: http://www.visualmandarin.com/tools/dictionary/

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Cool! Added the Cantonese one, thanks!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Great stuff! A Russian option was missing until now :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Great suggestions!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Looks snazzy! Added it in :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Cool! I added in those two Swedish dictionaries. Thanks!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Seems to be paywalled except for automatic translations though?

    • Sergei Grimanov

      Recently it was absolutely free. Now you can’t use all dictionaries. I’m puzzled. What do somebody want from dictionary except translation and articles?

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Nice! Added it in :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Added it in, thanks!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Nice! Hebrew was definitely lacking in the list up to now!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Fantastic! Very glad to add in less commonly learned languages. Appreciate the link! Ones that cater to that language’s quirks are important. I know what you mean based on how the Celtic word beginnings change in Irish (although our spelling rules compensate for that when looking it up)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Great! Added both in :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Done!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Excellent feedback. Thanks for taking the time!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Ah yes, Wiktionary can be good for many other languages – good idea!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Wow, it has a pretty good selection of other countries’ sign languages. Thanks – added it in!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Someone else suggested it too – in the list!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Two suggestions to add it in, so it’s there :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Turkish was definitely missing until now. Appreciate it!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Yep, it’s there now!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Added!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Both are in the list now. Thanks!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Sure, why not add in these two! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Great stuff, thanks – just added those in!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Ne mankis – gxi jam cxeestis.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Just added it in, thanks!

  • Glenna

    thanks for captioning the package video!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Cool – added it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Just added Sanseido!

  • Marina Jones

    The Egyptian Arabic dictionary Lisaanmasry is brilliant. Wouldn’t be without it. Thanks, Benny!

  • Rachel

    Speaking of learning in context through resources such as Linguee, if I am writing and trying to choose between two phrases in French, I do a Google search and put the phrase in inverted commas to see which one gets more hits.

    Eg I used to puzzle over whether it was “cahier de charges” or “cahier des charges”.

    “Cahier de charges”… 5 060 000 results
    “Cahier des charges”…. 91 000 000 results

    And looking at them you can see that the 5 million results are all dodgy while the 91 million include the Wikipedia page for the cahier des charges etc.

    Just a tip for beginners!

  • Yanti

    Does anyone know a good Indonesian one? I’m Having trouble finding one

  • Daniel CAUNE

    Typo mistake: “Le grand dictionnaire terminologique” instead of “Grand dictionnaire termilogique” as you wrote it in the French section of this article.

  • Vladimir Georgiev

    Add to the list http://www.eurodict.com – it’s a good billingual dictionary with a lot of examples and I use it in extreme situations when nothing else would help me to understand a particular word in English. It translates from Bulgarian to English/Spanish/Italian/Turkish/German/French/Greek and vice versa. It has some other combinations between the languages I mentioned, but not all of them =)