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by : Ray
Published 17 April 2015

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

Aug. 20, 2017 – new edition (v32) containing 32,000 entry-words, with 8,000 new words, all taken from the definitions and examples of the previous edition (v24).

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 (the titles flagged with an asterisk in the article German Literature - a personal survey).

For each separate meaning of an entry-word – there are exactly 1.6 different meanings per entry-word on average here - we have included, in addition to its English translation, the original German-language definition and usage examples, taken from the main reference dictionaries - the highly-recommended Wahrig [1] and the extremely comprehensive Duden.

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 [2], to ensure the integrity and the comprehensiveness of this opus.

This 32,000-word subset of the kolossal German vocabulary (with 51,000 English-language translations) 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.

And it is an extensive cross-section of the language, with not only the extensive literary aspects of the language referred to above, but also all of the commonly-used words, all the prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, pronouns, articles, common adjectives and so on – but with this new edition all of the words needed to define and illustrate 32,000 words – no need to seek elsewhere the basic and essential words of the language; they are all here!

An interesting aspect of the German lexicon is the quite amazing number of perfectly-valid words which are not defined in any standard dictionary - a consequence of the Lego-like structure of the language, whereby different verbal components - adjectives, nouns, verbs, pronouns, 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. An aspect of the tongue that Mark Twain complained about in The Awful German Language and that we have analysed in our article Why we think that German has a bigger vocabulary than English (or any other Indo-European language).

The many words undefined in any currently-available paper or digital dictionary but used by the Wahrig or Duden German-language dictionaries in the definitions of other words (1828 !!) and to provide examples of their usage (815 !) have all been included here, with an English-language translation and a reference to the entry-word in which 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, which is also shown below.

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Ray’s German-English literary dictionary v32 - xls version


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date of last update: August 20, 2017.


[1appreciated for its concision, for its identification of the plurals of all compound nouns, for the clear identification of intransitive verbs, and for the systematic indication of intonations.

[2we estimate that there are entry-words here for at least 99% of all of the 600,000+ German words to be found in the definitions and examples in the whole dictionary (after elimination of duplicates, spelling variants, plurals, conjugated verb forms and declensional forms of nouns, adjectives and pronouns).