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What are the best dictionaries for Arabic dialects?

Dictionaries for Arabic Dialects are rare. Here is a list of tools for Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi, Tunisian, and Moroccan Arabic.

Last updated: June 26, 2022

Anyone who starts learning Arabic will quickly realize that there is one major disadvantage compared to other languages: dictionaries.

It is even worse with colloquial Arabic (عامية). There are almost no up-to-date reference works at all which can be counted as comprehensive. Moreover, it is almost impossible to find good and reliable material about how young people in Arab countries speak.

The good news is that the internet is starting to fill that void, with some solo fighters spending countless unpaid hours on it. Here are some suggestions for tools (online and offline) for Arabic dialects.

Dictionaries covering several dialects

English <-> Arabic

DIGITAL: Lughatuna (Egyptian, Levantine, Moroccan Arabic)

This free (!) dictionary will probably become the standard dictionary for Arabic dialects in the future. It is constantly updated and developed by its founder, Hossam Abouzahr, who is doing a tremendous job!

It covers three Arabic dialects: Egyptian, Levantine, Maghreb. Moreover, you will find many useful examples – in Arabic script!

lughatuna
Screenshot: website livingarabic.com

Arabic <-> Arabic

I have had good experiences with the following two websites. But you have to know some Arabic to understand the explanations as they are given only in Arabic.

DIGITAL: mo3jam.com (good for Saudi and Algerian slang)

Mo3jam is a large online dictionary of colloquial Arabic covering all variations of Arabic. However, not every Arabic dialect is covered comprehensively. The dictionary works best for Saudi (more than 3100 terms), Algerian (2151 terms) and Moroccan (910 terms) Arabic.

It explains words in plain Arabic. It is extremely useful for slang words!

mo3jam
What are the best dictionaries for Arabic dialects? 81

DIGITAL: 3amyah.com

I couldn’t find any information about the number of words registered in 3amyah.com – but it is quite good. If you cannot find a word elsewhere, try 3amyah.com. It covers all varieties of Arabic.

3amyah
screenshot: website 3amyah.com

Egyptian Arabic

The most comprehensive and complete dictionary available for Egyptian Arabic. It is organized by verb root, and has up to several dozen sentence-examples for each entry. The only problem is that it has not been updated.

The book represents the language of the pre-digital era. Nevertheless, it is a fantastic work!

Disclamer: I have no idea about copyright issues, but ejtaal.net offers an online version of Hinds/Badwi.

Though you cannot use these books like dictionaries, they can help you a lot to get a better understanding of words.

The books contain proverbs (Although, in my opinion, the selection does not include the most important) and colorful expressions. Note that the explanations are in Arabic and the English translation is sometimes not very accurate! You need to have a good understanding of Arabic already, otherwise the books will be tough…

Please note that 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.

DIGITAL: Lisaan Masry

This dictionary is the best tool if you search for contemporary stuff, e.g., verbs related to tech stuff (to save a file on the computer), etc.

In addition to the dictionary, there is also a thesaurus, example sentences, an introduction to Egyptian Arabic grammar, and tools to help you learn vocabulary, improve your pronunciation, and read and write Arabic.

I use the offline version (Java based) on my desktop (Opensuse Linux) and the Android version on my mobile. Both work very well.

lisan masry
screenshot: Lisaan Masry desktop app on Linux

You can download the offline version on the Lisaan Masry website.

Levantine Arabic (Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian)

Although there are relatively many people who learn this dialect, there is almost no single good dictionary. At least I don’t know any; but I have to say right away that this dialect group is not my specialty.

Professor Yassin Abdel Rahim (ياسين عبد الرحيم) has published an encyclopedia of the Syrian dialect (موسوعة العامية السورية), which was first published by the Syrian Ministry of Culture in 2003. It has three volumes.

This dictionary includes colloquial words used in Syria (especially in the coastal region of the Syrian Arab Republic), confirming their pronunciation and clarifying their meaning or connotation, verifying their origin and where they came from.

Unfortunately, it is quite difficult to get. The big local book sellers should be able to get it for you.

Ulric Shannon has recommended this dictionary and shared some pictures:

This dictionary is relatively old (1964) and as far as I know has never been really updated.

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This is a relatively new work (2020). The book contains over 2000 of the most common idioms and idiomatic expressions used in Levantine Arabic (Jordanian dialect). It is a perfect tool for intermediate and advanced learners.

Please note that 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.

This is an excellent dictionary of conversational Palestinian Arabic which was updated in 2004.

Pro: The Dictionary contains 784 pages 9,000 entries, 17,000 phrases and an index of 14,000 English words.

Con: It does not use Arabic script – only Latin script, which makes it very hard to read for people who know Arabic. And it is very expensive.

Please note that 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.

This recently published dictionary (2021) is compiled for students learning Spoken Arabic. It includes explanations
of proverbs and idioms and thousands of etymological references to words in Spoken Arabic.

  • Publisher: Semitic Languages Institute (2021)
  • Paperback : ‎ 560 pages
  • ISBN-10: ‎965928103X
  • ISBN-13: ‎978-9659281039

Ulric Shannon has recommended this dictionary and shared some pictures:

Please note that 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.

This 900-page book provides a valuable source on the Palestinian spoken dialect. The book includes thousands of loanwords that have entered the local dialect and the etymological origins of these words traces back to many different languages such as, Akkadian, Spanish, German, English, Italian, Pahlavi, Portuguese, Yiddish, Syriac, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Ottoman, Farsi, Latin, French, Hindi and Greek.

  • Publisher: Semitic Languages Institute (2019)
  • ISBN-10: 9659161093
  • ISBN-13: 978-9659161096

Ulric Shannon has recommended this dictionary and shared some pictures:

DIGITAL: Syrian Arabic Dictionary

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Mustafa Alotbah, a developer residing in Germany, has done an impressive job. The app (6.99 €) is an Arabic <-> English dictionary and features the Arabic spoken in Syria.

Pro: You can view a conjugation table if you search for a verb: all tenses, moods, participles.

Con: It only uses the Latin alphabet.

Google Play Store

Moroccan Arabic

This dictionary uses Arabic script and is quite comprehensive. It is the best resource to date for Moroccan Arabic.

Please note that 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.

What about apps? I have tried several apps in the Google App store, but none of them really worked (either there were technical issues or the database was very basic). I would suggest using Lughatuna listed at the beginning (various dialects).

Tunisian Arabic

DIGITAL: DERJA NINJA

This new dictionary was recommended by reader John B.

Derja.ninja is an amazing website. It is an English <> Tunisian dialect dictionary, with glosses and examples (full sentences). What’s best: it includes audio recordings of the dictionary entries and the examples.

derja ninja
Screenshot derja.ninja

That is what the developers of derja.ninja say about it:

We tried to give full definitions of the entry words so that the meaning of the word is as clear as possible, while not making the entry too long or complicated.

For example, we translated “إددّشْ” as “to walk like a baby, learn to walk, toddle” in order to make the meaning clearer, even though we could have just written, “toddle.”

As for the example sentences, we translated them more directly and without much explanation, trying to keep them somewhat literal (so the meaning of each word is evident) while making the overall meaning clear and natural enough.

So the sentence, “اشنعوها و عملو فوضة” was translated somewhat woodenly as, “They caused trouble and made chaos” in the hope that the meaning of each word in Arabic would be clear enough.

But when a literal translation would be too awkward, we translated the sentence more freely. So “وقع الإستعلام عليه” became, “They investigated him” rather than “The investigation happened to him.”

derja ninja2
Screenshot derja.ninja

Reader John says about it: “Very well done and fairly comprehensive, in my language learning of Tunisian dialect I rarely come across a word that cannot be found on derja.ninja.”

DIGITAL: arabetunisien.com

This dictionary is in French and contains around 4000 words. It is a good start if you need to check a word in Tunisian Arabic. There is also a mobile app. Unfortunately, there is no Arabic script.

Sudanese

When I was in Khartoum, Sudan, a few years ago, I stumbled into a bookshop and found a very handy dictionary. Sudanese Arabic is quite close to Egyptian Arabic and with this book, I found words that are unique to Sudanese Arabic quickly. I am happy that the dictionary is available meanwhile on various online book stores.

Please note that 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.

Iraqi Arabic

It guess this is pretty much the only option, though quite outdated!

Please note that 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.

Gulf Arabic

I am not familiar with Gulf Arabic, but people told me that this dictionary is quite good.

Please note that 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.

This Arabic-English and English-Gulf Arabic glossary by Hamdi A. Qafisheh contains words and phrases most frequently used by native speakers of Gulf Arabic. It does not use Arabic letters (only transliteration).

  • ISBN10 1853411612
  • ISBN13 9781853411618
  • 326 pages
  • Publication year: 1996
  • Publisher: Librairie Du Liban

Ulric Shannon has recommended this dictionary and shared some pictures:


Do you know other good dictionaries or apps?

Please use the comment section below or send me a message. I am happy to add more resources!

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