You are here Home page > GERMAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE > A German-English literary dictionary (with German-language definitions)
by : Ray
Published 17 April 2015

A German-English literary dictionary (with German-language definitions)

The core of this bilingual literary dictionary consists of all of the words looked up in various dictionaries while working through some 60-odd German-language novels and short-story anthologies over the past umpteen years [1].

For each separate meaning of an entry-word [2] we have included the original German definition and the German-language usage examples from the reference dictionary [3].

And we have taken particular care to ensure that there are separate entries in the dictionary for ALL of the German words in these definitions and examples, to ensure the integrity and the comprehensiveness of this opus.

This 24,000-word subset of the kolossal German vocabulary [4] thus contains just about all of the words one needs to know to be able to read the vast majority of German-language literature in the original text - much of which is hard if not impossible to find in translation, partly because of the traditional predominance of the short-story form in German-language literature, a format less-sought-after elsewhere, and also perhaps because of a quite astonishing general lack of interest elsewhere in the literary achievements of Europe’s economic powerhouse and most populous country.

An interesting aspect of the German lexicon is the quite amazing number of perfectly-valid words which are not defined in any standard dictionary [5], an aspect of the tongue that Mark Twain complained about in The Awful German Language. The many words undefined in any currently-available paper or digital dictionary but used [6] in the definitions of other words (589!!) and to provide examples of their usage (82!) have all been included here [7], with their English translations and with links to the word-entries where they are used.

Annexes to the dictionary show:

- a compilation of some 800 commonly-used expressions ("Redewendungen"), with English translations;
- a lexicon of the abbreviations ("Abkürzungen") widely used throughout the dictionary;
- An analysis by word-type of all of the entries in the dictionary (28% are verbs!), which is also shown below.

Click here if the above window does not open correctly <=====


Ray’s German-English literary dictionary


CategorySub-categoryIdentifierNo. of entriesTotal% of total
Nouns Sub. 12170 51.39%
Verbs Verb 6612 27.092
Adjectives Adj. 3871 16.35%
Adverbs Adv. 633
Interrogative adverbs Interrogativadv. 26
Relative adverbs Relativadv. 20
TOTAL 679 2.87%
Prepositions Präp. 109 0.46%
Conjunctions Konj. 90 0.38%
Definite articles bestimmter Artikel 10
Indefinite articles unbestimmter Artikel 1
TOTAL 11 0.05%
Personal pronouns Personalpronomen 26
Indefinite pronouns Indefinitpronomen 22
Demonstrative pronouns Demonstrativpron. 16
Relative pronouns Relativpronomen 10
Possessive pronouns Possessivpronomen 10
Interrogative pronouns Interrogativpronomen 6
Reflexive pronouns refl. Pron. 1
Other pronouns Pron. 13
TOTAL 104 0.44%
Tone-words Abtönungspartikel 29 0,12%
Interjections Int. 7 0.03%
TOTAL word-entries 23682 100,00%
Expressions RW 78
Prefixes Vorsilbe 55
Suffixes Nachsilbe 51
Abbreviations Abk. 20
TOTAL entries 23886

date of last update: October 28, 2016.


[1the titles flagged with an asterisk in the article German Literature - a personal survey, elsewhere on this site.

[2there are about 2.2 separate meanings for each entry-word, on average

[3essentially the (highly-recommended) Wahrig - appreciated for its concision, for its identification of the plurals of compound nouns, for the clear identification of intransitive verbs, and for the systematic indication of intonations - and the (very comprehensive) Duden.

[4with some 50,000+ English-language translations.

[5a consequence of the Lego-like structure of the language, whereby different verbal components - adjectives, nouns, verbs, past participles, etc. - can be intertwined to form compound words practically at will, providing an almost-unlimited number of correct, usable words probably far in excess in number to those of any other (Indo-European) language, in our humble opinion.

[6by the Wahrig or Duden German-language dictionaries.

[7entry-words for which no German definition has been found in any currently-available paper or digital dictionary have been flagged with one or two exclamation marks - for those used in usage-examples or in definitions, respectively - in the right-hand column.