For students of Arabic, there are a lot of wonderful dictionaries and resources available online and in-print. However, the wrong dictionary at certain stages of learning could lead to a lot of frustration, unnecessary expenditure of time and even ultimately a loss of motivation to study Arabic.
Thus, here is a list of dictionaries and resources in English that students of Qur’an and Arabic can use in their studies. For each resource, the following aspects are expanded upon:
- where is it available from,
- what are some of its main features (not exhaustive by any means),
- some pros and cons,
- a personal review (if applicable), and
- a final verdict.
The pros and cons, personal review and final verdict should help a student decide which dictionary is appropriate for them, insha Allah. The resources are categorized in two ways:
- Arabic-English/English-Arabic dictionaries and resources,
- Qur’an-Exclusive dictionaries and resources.
This categorization should further help a student decide which resource is most suited for their educational needs. The list is in no particular order. At the end of the article, there is a small concluding note as well, insha Allah.
Reading Time: 20-30 minutes.
Intended Audience: Students/Budding students of Qur’an and Arabic, preferably those with a little background.
Arabic-English/English-Arabic Dictionaries and Resources
The Mawrid has words that are arranged alphabetically, instead of by root words (which is more traditional). Moreover, unlike many Arabic-English dictionaries, the Mawrid also offers a synonym in Arabic for each Arabic word. The Mawrid, unlike most dictionaries, comes in print, in a software package and in a very handy electronic device that is easy to carry around.
The Mawrid comes in two types: Arabic-English only and in Arabic-English/English-Arabic, which makes it supremely useful for a student who is learning how to speak and write in Arabic.
1) Ease of Usage. It requires very basic knowledge of grammar to benefit from it. For example, for Arabic verbs, if you don’t know the root of the verb or you don’t know the form of the verb, you can still utilize this dictionary as long as you can figure out the past tense of the verb. So there is some basic grammar required, but not a lot.
2) Arabic Synonyms. These help a student quickly build up a very strong vocabulary.
3) Electronic Version. Easily one of the most useful tools for a student of the language. The time to search words is drastically reduced when using the electronic version, which makes reading Arabic texts much easier and faster.
1) Missing Information. The Mawrid does not provide the masdar of a verb, the forms of the verbs, the present tense of 3-letter verbs and the plural of nouns.
I have used the Mawrid extensively and have found it to be one of the best dictionaries. It helped me increase my vocabulary, helped save my time when I was looking up words quickly and it explained many words beautifully and concisely.
Essential for beginners, excellent for intermediate students but not too much value for advanced students/researchers. A dictionary that should be in every one’s library.
Hans Wehr arranges its entries by root word, giving many applicable meanings, commonly used phrases, usage of verbs with prepositions, how verbs effect the objects (مفعول به) (if applicable) and how the meaning changes with different forms of a verb (numbered II-X). Moreover, it provides the meanings of the masadir of verbs, meanings of many of the derivatives from verbs (المشتقات) and also the present tense of 3-letter verbs. All of these are done in a code that is explained in the preface of the dictionary. Furthermore, Hans Wehr provides a transliteration for most words which helps in pronunciation.
The Hans-Wehr does not come in English-Arabic, only in Arabic-English.
1) Thoroughness. The dictionary is very thorough and comprehensive, providing a wide range of meanings, usages, associated phrases in a very succinct manner.
2) Completeness. You can find relatively complete information about the basics of a verb (present, masdar, different forms, usages) and plurals for nouns. This makes it very beneficial for anyone who delves deeper into the language for studying the Qur’an or the ahadith.
1) Difficult Usage. Hans Wehr requires some intermediate knowledge of grammar to fully benefit and utilize it. Thus, it can be intimidating and time-consuming for beginners who do not have too much mastery over grammar.
2) Notation. There is a lot of notation in the dictionary that takes a lot of time and reading of the preface to get used to. This is another hurdle for the beginner, but once you get used to it, the notation is very useful.
I have used the Hans Wehr a lot and still use it as my first reference whenever I research a word. It is not something to use when you want to quickly look up a word, rather Hans Wehr is useful when you have some time to read the entire entry concerning the word, its usages, phrases, etc.
A little background in grammar is necessary to fully benefit from this work. A challenging book for beginners, essential for intermediate and advanced students. Another dictionary that should be in every one’s library, in my opinion.