Schofield & Sims, 1995
96 pages, price unknown, paperback
Rating: ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭
Might be out of print. A children’s visual dictionary, but just fine for casual browsing by beginning adult learners. Clear, big typefaces. Nice colour illustrations for every entry; English, Arabic and transliteration. Vowel markings.
by John Wortabet
Librairie du Liban, 1980 [?]
431 pages, paperback
Rating: ✭ ✭
Alert: John Wortabet died in 1908, so he did not work on this edition, or on the newer one I have seen online. Old School. Pocket-sized, more or less. Redeeming qualities: 1) Center section of blurry colour plates of fish, clouds, flowers, fruit etc. with Arabic and English for each item. 2) Addendum of some thirty pages of scientific/technical terms (very out-of-date). Arabterm is a serious, searchable modern online dictionary of technical terms.
by John Wortabet & Harvey Porter
Hippocrene 1954, 2nd printing 1996
455 pages, $34.95, Hardcover
Rating: ✭ ✭
Available in other formats from Hippocrene (paperback with a moderne cover). Beware: this dictionary was first published in the 1890s, and therefore is capital O-old capital S-school. Buy it only if you want to research the presentation of certain words in dictionaries through the ages. Of course, if I ran across an ancient copy, I would snap that up like no tomorrow. Vowel marks.
Wortabet’s Arabic-English Dictionary is a different book; the Wortabet there is William Thompson, son of John. It appeared in 1888 (before Père Wortabet’s). It is online.
Reverend John Wortabet (1827-1908) was a medical doctor and professor of anatomy at the Medical College in Beirut. He was a physician in the Hospital of the Knights of St. John, and wrote an Arabic version of Gray’s Anatomy. Harvey Porter taught at the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut.
by Margaret RK Parrish
DK Publishing, 2009
360 pages, $14.95, paperback
Very, very nicely done. The cover blurb says, Over 6,000 words and phrases; I believe it. Pretty much everything under the sun organized into sections like People, Appearance, Health, Home, Services, Shopping, Food, Study and more. Then sub sections. All in full colour with modern photographs, each item labelled with Arabic, transliteration, and English. No vowel marks. Very comprehensive. The best I’ve seen and very inexpensive.
by Raymond P Scheindlin
584 pages, $18.99, paperback
The old version was 201 Arabic Verbs (available for free download online) and then everything got supersized and now there’s 300 more verbs. Conjugated in all tenses and forms and a couple of sample sentences for each verb. The first time you open this book and see all the forms and Jussive and Subjunctive and on and on you think mafish fida what have I done? But very quickly you learn to focus in on whatever it is you’re currently interested in and all the rest falls away for another day’s endeavour.
The widespread grousing around town is about the lack of an English index. I see that point, but if I’m headed to the Barron’s I am looking for a particular Arabic verb and not how-do-you-say-watchamacallit-in-Arabic. I know. If there were an English index I’d use it. I thought someone would have posted one on the ol’ www but I can’t find one. Something to do some night when I can’t sleep. Anyway, this is indispensable once you have decided to really give learning Arabic a chance.
There are lists of 1,000 Arabic verbs online plus an iPhone/iPad app with 1,000 verbs and I get a headache just thinking about it.
Raymond P. Scheindlin is professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.
by Hans Wehr; edited by JM Cowan
Snowball Publishing, 2011
1110 pages, $47.50, hard cover
This is the ne plus ultra of Arabic-English dictionaries, except maybe not this particular edition. Reports are that this edition is actually a reprint of the 1960 edition, and there have been at least two newer editions since then, with 200 more and better looking pages. There is also some muttering about Snowball Publishing not being quite reputable. I didn’t know all this when I sprung for mine.
It is very thick and 4.4 pounds, or two kilograms heavy. You do not want to be lugging this baby on the bus. Wehr first published it in German as the Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart and from the get-go everyone fell over each other trying to describe how very excellent it is. It has never been bettered.
The Wehr is the OED of Arabic-English dictionaries. Quotations aren’t given, but he combed very wide-ranging sources for his entries, and not just musty ancient existing dictionaries. This has made a huge difference. Entries are ordered by their roots, and so if you can’t figure out the root you may be frustrated. But once you find what you’re looking for there’s a ton of information on the word starting with the perfect of the basic stem, the vowels of the imperfect of stem and on and on. There is transliteration but no vowel marks. And when you are even a little comfortable with roots this becomes a desert island tome of the first magnitude. Except this edition, I guess, but really I am not in any position to squabble over two hundred fewer pages when there’s over a thousand of them to keep me busy for several lifetimes.
Amazingly, some genius has made a searchable PDF of the Wehr. So you can go have a look and see what all the hubbub’s about.
Hans Wehr was a professor at the University of Münster from 1957 to 1974. He died in 1981.
compiled by Fethi Mansouri
Periplus Editions 2004
90 pages; $6.95, paperback
Three thousand words, arabic-english and english-arabic. No vowel markings so it would be more useful for looking up words you might want to read or write as opposed to speak, except that by the time you are reading, even very simple things, you need to be looking words up by their roots, which doesn’t happen here. I do find that when I scan down the pages my brain seems to be filling in the vowels. The Arabic-English section is sorted by the english letter the transliteration starts with—something which would be very handy if your reading level in Arabic is still very new and shaky. Something small (it fits in my back pocket but sticks out a little) I might take on a long bus ride when I wanted something not too taxing to look at.
Fethi Mansouri is an Alfred Deakin Professor at Deakin University in Melbourne. He is also editor of the Journal of Intercultural Studies.