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

(actualisé le ) by Ray

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 [1].

For each separate meaning of an entry-word [2] 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 – much appreciated 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 - and the extremely comprehensive and very thorough 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 - there are over 600,000 German words in the definitions and examples of the whole dictionary - to ensure the integrity and the comprehensiveness of this opus, and especially because of the importance of understanding properly all of the words one encounters in dictionary definitions and examples, in whatever language.

This 34,000-word subset of the kolossal German vocabulary (with nearly 54,000 different meanings, and their English 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, apart from literary monuments hors concours such as Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain or Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities, natürlich. But it does have, for example, all of the words in Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice – apart from his numerous neologisms -, certainly one of the most complex works in the language….

Much of the best of German literature 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 outside of the German-language sphere 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 of the prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, pronouns, articles, common adjectives and so on. Since all of the words needed to define and illustrate 34,000 words are defined and translated here, there can be little doubt that the basic and essential words of the language 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 elsewhere on this site.

The 3065 words undefined in any currently-available paper or digital German dictionary, but used by the mainstream Wahrig or Duden dictionaries in their definitions and examples of the words in this dictionary, 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;
- The analysis by word-type of all of the entries in the dictionary, also displayed below.


Ray’s German-English literary dictionary v34 - xls version