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What are the best dictionaries for Palestinian Arabic?

Maknuune is a new dictionary of Palestinian Arabic. I had a look at the excellent lexicon, but also checked other encyclopedias and study tools dealing with Palestinian Arabic.

Last updated: 11 months ago

Having your own language, or at least your own dialect, is an important part of identity. It is therefore all the more gratifying that an excellent dictionary of Palestinian Arabic – Maknuune (مَكْنُونة) is now available as an online encyclopedia and in the form of a book as a PDF version. This dictionary documents an important part of Palestinian identity.

In this article, I briefly introduce the dictionary project. I also discuss other Palestinian Arabic resources and dictionaries.


Maknuune (مَكْنُونة) is a large and accessible free encyclopedia documenting the Palestinian Arabic dialect. It is a project of NYU University in Abu Dhabi and was published in February 2023.

The encyclopedia is available as an online version and as a PDF version on the website www.palestine-lexicon.org

The dictionary is the result of a collaboration between traditional linguists and computer linguists.

Maknuune (“mac-new-nay”) has over 36000 entries and contains 3700 roots.

All entries are with , there is a phonological transcription and English translations. Some entries are enriched with additional information such as plural (جَمْع) and feminine (مُؤَنَّث) forms, associated phrases and collocations (تلازمات لفظية), notes on Standard Arabic usage (الفُصْحَى), and examples or notes on grammar.

Palestinian Arabic Dictionary
Palestinian Arabic Dictionary

Maknuune's also includes idioms and collocations. In linguistics, collocations show how words go together or form fixed relationships. For example, in English, you say to take a quick shower, but to take a fast train. So it is important to know which words are usually used together.

Palestinian Arabic Dictionary
Palestinian Arabic Dictionary

According to the lexicon's website, Maknuune has received praise from internationally renowned scholars, authors and linguists.

This is what Prof. Noam Chomsky, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) said about the dictionary: “The new Palestinian Arabic Lexicon Maknuune is a valuable contribution to the linguistic scholarship generally, and is especially welcome for the insights it provides into the rich cultural and social life of Palestine.” Prof. Noam Chomsky, MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

About the name مَكْنُونة: When hens lay their eggs, it is common practice in rural areas that all eggs are collected except one that is kept to mark the territory for other hens to come and lay their eggs in that location, so that eggs are not scattered everywhere. Palestinian farmers call this a مَكْنُونة.

The creators of the dictionary chose this name because we plan for مَكْنُونة to be an open resource that, just like that one egg, will encourage other people to come and lay their own linguistic knowledge next to it.

The Living Arabic Project – online & mobile

Hossam Abou Zahr‘s (حُسام أبو ظَهْر) dictionary project The Living Arabic for all Arabic dialect families is a treasure trove for all Arabic fans. He is continuously expanding the database, there are apps for Android and Apple. In addition, the dictionary is very up-to-date and already quite extensive.

Living Arabic Dictionary
Living Arabic Dictionary

There is no dictionary specifically for Palestinian Arabic, but the Levantine version is more than sufficient for everyday use, as the differences in everyday vocabulary are not that great.

The Olive Tree Dictionary

The Olive Tree Dictionary by Yohanan Elihay is a good and authentic resource, however, it may be a little bit outdated and it is very expensive.

You find translations from Arabic to English, but it also contains an English Arabic Index. The Dictionary contains 9,000 entries, 17,000 phrases and an index of 14,000 English words.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Watch out: This book DOES NOT use the , but only transliterations!

Yohanan Elihay was born in 1926 as Jean Laraouh in a town near Paris and raised in a French Catholic family.

In 1946, he traveled to Lebanon as part of his mandatory military service, where he taught French and began studying Arabic. Later, he became a monk and was accepted as a member of the Order of the Little Brothers, whose members live modestly within the community and earn a living from manual labor. He moved to Israel in 1956 and started to work as a ceramicist and years later at a printing house in Haifa. In 1960, he received Israeli citizenship and changed his name to Yohanan Elihay.

Now, what has all this to do with Arabic? Well, beside his job, Yohanan focused on teaching Palestinian Arabic. He did pioneer work; listened, recorded, transcribed and verified words, sentences and phrases he heard whenever he met people speaking Arabic, at work, on the bus, on the streets, random people, etc.

He published many books and dictionaries, also a -Arabic lexicon, but his main focus was Palestinian Arabic.

Yohana passed away in on July 2020.

Palestinian Colloquial Arabic Vocabulary

Lingualism's Matthew Aldrich is a guarantee for Arabic tools of decent quality. He has published books for beginners and intermediate learners on numerous dialects – including Palestinian Arabic.

The book Palestinian Colloquial Arabic Vocabulary presents over 4,500 words, phrases, and example sentences organized by topic. It gives you all the basic vocabulary you need to buy food, greet people and ride a bus.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

All items appear in a three-column layout with Arabic script (with diacritics/tashkeel), phonemic transcription (to aid in accurate pronunciation), and English translation.

An alphabetical English-Arabic index helps you locate needed words quickly.

You can download free audio files on the publisher's website. Furthermore, you can purchase Anki digital flashcards with audio.

Wörterbuch Palästinensisch – Deutsch (German)

Ulrich Seeger had collected texts during two one-year stays near Ramallah and then, together with a team, systematically evaluated all kinds of material over a period of seven years. The result of almost ten years of work is two large-format volumes with a total of about 1350 pages.

The work is arranged according to Semitic roots and contains more than 9000 roots with more than 30000 entries. There are also about 11,000 examples.

Wörterbuch Palästinensisch – Deutsch
Wörterbuch Palästinensisch – Deutsch

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Watch out:

  • There is NO Arabic script, just transliterations.
  • It's incredibly expensive to buy.

@Mark: Thank you for telling us about this book.

Palestinian Arabic Verbs: Conjugation Tables and Grammar

Another great book by Matthew Aldrich which is useful especially for beginners.

  • Conjugation tables of some of the most common verbs – around 100 verbs
  • Indexes with 750 more verbs which can be conjugated using the conjugation tables as models.

The 101 Most Used Verbs in Spoken Arabic: Jordan & Palestine

I didn't know about this book, but it was recommended by a reader as a helpful resource (@Matthew – thanks a lot). The title is misleading, as there are not only 101 verbs, but many more. The book is a mixture of a phrasebook and a practical dictionary. It is a collection of practical words in real-life sentences. On 356 pages (4th edition!), it presents the most common verbs and phrases of the Arabic spoken in Jordan and Palestine.

Big bonus: Readers have access to 12 hours of audio material (mp3 files).

Do you know of any other good books on Palestinian Arabic? I would be very happy if you could share this with the readers as a comment below. Alternatively, you can send me a message and I will add it here.

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