One of the best things about being a language learner in 2022 is that you no longer have to buy and lug around a big heavy paperback French dictionary! Nowadays, you can find a lot of online dictionaries that can be trusty learning companions. Here is a list of the best French-English dictionaries according to our teachers. Each is a little different, but they all have one thing in common: they’re online!
Top 10 Best French-English Dictionaries and Translation Apps According to Our Teachers
When comparing dictionaries, it’s important to highlight the different types of dictionaries that are out there. This first section focuses on monolingual dictionaries, designed to help language learners look up and learn new vocabulary, as well as get information about context, part of speech, conjugations, etc.
As a result, these tools provide a lot of depth to any search. That makes them a great resource learning how to incorporate a new word into your vocabulary.
On the other hand, all this extra information means quite a lot of text, often presented in the target language. Sometimes this is not ideal for fast, easy use, or for beginners.
Le Trésor de la Language Française Informatisé is one of the best online French dictionaries. Many people use this as their go-to dictionary because of its excellent reputation and the sheer breadth of its content. The interface looks a bit outdated, but if you can get past that, it’s a user-friendly tool with top-notch information. It’s not called a “treasure” (trésor) for nothing!
- It differs from other online dictionaries because of its rigorous presentation of data. There are three levels of search: simple, assisted, or complex.
- It is based on the printed version of the Trésor de la Langue Française dictionary created in the 19th century, which contains 16 volumes and a supplement.
- It contains 100,000 words with their history, 270,000 definitions, and 430,000 examples.
What will you find in this dictionary? Definitions, examples of usage, synonyms, antonyms, literary excerpts, and pronunciation. It also gives you the option to color-code each word by function (e.g. synonym, definition).
This dictionary, published by L’Académie Française, is one of the most famous dictionaries of the French language. It was originally published in the 17th century but is frequently updated and reissued. As of 2022, they are still working on the latest reissue, so you’ll have to resort to the previous edition for queries starting with S-Z.
- The 9th edition shows how the language has evolved and French society has adapted, but it isn’t quite an encyclopedia. It’s still a dictionary of common language.
- It currently contains 28,000 more words than the last version of the dictionary, published in 1934-35.
- It contains 60,000 everyday words in a complete catalog that both language learners and professionals can appreciate. For reference, a highly cultural level newspaper like Le Monde uses around 25,000 different words. Generally speaking, an advanced (native) speaker has a vocabulary of around 10,000 words, so this dictionary should have everything you need!
What will you find in this dictionary? Definitions, examples of usage, historical references, literary excerpts, verb conjugations.
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This is by far (in our humble opinion) the best thematic visual dictionary. The 1st edition was published in 1982. It is designed to help students of French find the right word by looking at pictures labeled with terminology. If you’re a visual learner, this is a great French dictionary for you!
- This virtual reference tool goes beyond object identification, even answering questions you might have about the function, meaning, and purpose of the objects listed in the catalog.
- It is designed to help the user quickly grasp the meaning of a term, or simply learn something new.
- You will find 17 general topics in the French version of Ikonet, as well as 800 subtopics, 6,000 illustrations, and 20,000 terms with pronunciation and definitions.
What will you find in this dictionary? A catalog of detailed illustrations with terminology, definitions, and pronunciation. Two additional sections with terminology about the human body, food (recipes available, and you can sort them by ingredient!), and health. There are also some interesting word games.
In addition to the monolingual dictionaries listed above, there are also several useful bilingual dictionaries. Bilingual dictionaries serve a slightly different purpose, but they can be just as valuable!
As their name suggests, a bilingual dictionary has content in two languages: you can search for a word in your native language, and come up with its translation in your target language. Bilingual dictionaries also often include some additional information, like part of speech, synonyms, and example sentences.
But because users can search in their native language, these are often more valuable for beginners, or for trying to translate a specific word or thought.
The Éditions Larousse publishing house was founded by lexicographer Pierre Larousse in 1852. Larousse began his career as a teacher, but eventually began publishing progressive textbooks for kids and instruction manuals for teachers.
- The Larousse is one of the largest French-English dictionaries in existence. It contains 250,000 words and expressions, as well as conjugation and translation tools.
- The Larousse is also known for being somewhat multi-disciplinary. Their website features an encyclopedia with 135,000 definitions and 90,000 articles. Larousse also publishes the Larousse Gastronomique, an exhaustive reference on French cuisine, ingredients, recipes, and techniques. More recent editions also include non-French recipes.
- For more advanced learners, Larousse also offers a rotating crossword puzzle, among other games!
What will you find in the dictionary? French-English translations, common expressions, and audio pronunciation guides.
The Collins-Robert French Dictionary was initially conceived as a print bilingual dictionary. However, its linguistics database, which offers usage guides for both English and French, went digital in 2007. It is the fruit of a collaboration between two reputable dictionary publishing houses: HarperCollins, an English-language reference, and Le Robert, one of the most popular French dictionaries.
- In addition to an extensive bilingual French-English dictionary, their website offers several games, including Scrabble and quizzes on topics like French grammar or English idioms.
- For language lovers, the Collins blog also provides a steady flow of articles (generally written in English) on a variety of linguistic, pedagogic, and literary topics.
What will you find in the dictionary? French-English translations, common expressions, example sentences, phonetic transcriptions, and audio pronunciation guides.
WordReference was started in 1999 by an American who observed a need for high-quality, easily accessible online bilingual dictionaries. Today, it’s one of the most-used bilingual dictionaries, thanks to its wide range of languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish, Polish, Russian, Czech, Arabic, Korean, and more).
- This website was a pioneer in offering a robust discussion forum, where users can post questions about specific and unique uses of various words. Sometimes these discussions can be even more useful than the main entry!
- An “images” function provides a shortcut from a search entry directly to a Google images search to provide quick and easy visual information. There is also a shortcut to the Collins dictionary’s entry for many words, in addition to the WordReference entry.
What will you find in the dictionary? French-English translations, common expressions, example sentences, phonetic transcriptions, synonyms, forum entries related to searched term.
In addition to the best French-English dictionaries, we also wanted to include a few translation apps on our list. Translation apps are an amazing, relatively recent innovation that is changing the way we can communicate across languages.
The basic premise is that the app does most of the work for you. Just enter information in your native language and it will return a (fairly) accurate translation into the target language.
These have limited value for language study, as we always recommend that you be more active in your target language production. But they come in very handy when traveling, or in situations where you need to communicate simple information but a language barrier is preventing you.
This app is owned by Amazon. It’s a voice-to-text translator, meaning that you can speak into your phone, and it will produce a written translation. You can also play back your translation as audio.
Download this app for iOS or Android and take it with you on your next vacation. It’s a useful tool if you’re sending messages back and forth, or need a hands-free translator.
This is an “old fashioned” text-to-text translator, but it uses advanced AI and deep learning technology and is generally really good at what it does. In fact, lots of people consider it the most accurate machine translation program available today.
Currently, it is only offered as a desktop app, but you can use it with a mobile phone browser. It also offers a file translator that’s compatible with .pdf, .docx, and .pptx.
All of the other apps and websites included on this list are mostly, if not entirely free. iTranslate Pro does require a subscription, but it offers an impressive range of really cool features. In addition to standard text-to-text and voice-to-text translations, this website also offers camera translation: simply hold your phone over a sign, menu, or other content and the app will do the work (and hopefully keep you from ordering anything too unexpected!).
Another feature, iTranslate Lingo, offers flashcard lessons to improve your vocabulary and language skills. There’s also an offline mode, perfect for travelers!
MosaLingua French isn’t really a translation app, but it does offer several different categories of flashcards that can help you target vocabulary for specific situations.
MosaDiscovery is another exciting tool we offer. Click on any word you find online, view its definition and an automatically generated translation, and add it to your stack of flashcards to learn.
In addition to all the “classic” dictionaries we already listed, we wanted to include one that’s a little more off the beaten path:
This is a monolingual dictionary website, so all content is in French. It offers a variety of curated dictionaries on a wide range range of topics, including food, wine, fashion, marketing, homeopathic medicine, chemistry, and much more.
There are also sub-dictionaries for French and francophone dialects, including Anglicisms, Breton, Creole, Marseillais, slang, and verlan (a particular French slang similar to pig Latin).
With this selection of the best French-English dictionaries, you should have plenty of great reference materials to choose from. And remember, there are many other online resources that can help you improve your level of French. As an independent language learner, it’s important to have a wide variety of tools and resources to work with!