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What Is The Best Japanese Dictionary?

Whether you are just starting out with learning Japanese or at a more advanced level, having a good dictionary available is vital. In this article, I will break down my favourite Japanese-English dictionaries for various purposes. Bear in mind that this is by no means an exhaustive list nor is it intended as one. It simply represents my own personal experiences with studying Japanese and using it at work as a Japanese to English translator.

Best Paper Japanese Dictionary

Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary

Best Japanese Dictionary: Kodansha FuriganaIn my humble opinion, this is the best general Japanese-English dictionary for Japanese learners, from beginner to intermediate level. You can use it with just knowledge of kana, and it will take you a long way. More advanced learners will want something more substantial (see below), but the Kodansha dictionary is a good start.


Best Mobile Japanese Dictionary Apps

The Wisdom 2 English-Japanese Dictionary
best mobile Japanese dictionary: Wisdom

Rohan: “I have been using the Wisdom Japanese-English Dictionary app for years now. It has a ton of entries, clear definitions and great example sentences. In particular, the examples come in handy for learning new terms and helping them stick. It will cost you a little bit of upfront investment, but I really rate this dictionary for study purposes. Read our full review of the Wisdom Dictionary

iOS version
Android version

Takoboto

Mike: “I used to use the Wisdom 2 dictionary because it had the best example sentences of the Japanese dictionaries on Android.  But now I mostly use Takoboto, which has lots of great features like supporting multiple favorite lists, as well as exporting directly to Anki. The Anki export feature alone saves me hours of work.

Android version

Best Online Dictionaries

Online dictionaries have the advantage of being both free and instant. In this category, I’ll admit that there’s no clear winner in my mind. The following are all dictionaries that I use on a regular basis for my translation work:

Linguee

When I’m working at the PC, my first point of reference is now Linguee’s Japanese-English dictionary. It has an incredible number of example sentences (sourced from actual bilingual texts) for any given term that provide a deeper context than your average dictionary. The only caveat is that not all of the translations are 100% reliable so you need to have some grounding and experience in the language to suss out any possible duds.

ALC

ALC is a well-known publisher of language-related materials in Japan. They also provide a great online dictionary with a lot of example sentences. This used to be my main tool until Linguee came along.

Kotobank

Kotobank is another useful dictionary. I generally use it for quick lookup and for Japanese-Japanese definitions when I want to know a more exact meaning of a term. It is formerly known as the Yahoo Japanese-English Dictionary.

Jisho

This one is good for the basics, but doesn’t have example sentences (which are super helpful for learning).

Best Japanese dictionary browser plugin

Last but not least (!) is the Perapera Japanese Popup Dictionary provided by yours truly.

2019 Update: Sorry, we had to stop continuing support for our Japanese dictionary browser plugin because of time commitments and lack of donations.  We hope to someday bring it back to life!


So there you have it. I encourage you to check out the dictionaries that I mentioned here and see which one best fits your situation. If you are still a beginner, one solid dictionary such as Kodansha should be sufficient for starting out. You can always diversify your collection at a later stage.

What are your favourite Japanese lookup resources? Am I missing anything here? Let me know in the comments below!  Also check out our list of Japanese textbook recommendations.

 


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3 comments

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Ed Fobes January 9, 2017 at 1:52 am

What do you think about Yomichan in the Chrome Library? The dictionary is just ok but it automatically adds flash cards to ANKI

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Rohan Hartley January 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Hi Ed,

Never used Yomichan before. Will check it out! Thanks for commenting. ^^

Rohan

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François January 29, 2018 at 1:37 pm

It took me a long time to find it, but I find the “Japanese” app to be the best (and free) Japanese-English dictionary.
http://japaneseapp.com/
For those who know it, it’s very close to the Pleco Chinese-English dictionary app.
Seems there’s more functions on iPhone than Android, as a friend on Apple could also draw kanjis for lookup, and I can’t on Android.

I also feel Jim Breen’s WWWJDIC should get some credit here, as I understand it’s the basis of Perapera Japanese Popup Dictionary (and Rikai-chan, and Rikai-kun…)
http://nihongo.monash.edu/cgi-bin/wwwjdic?1C
Gotta say I used his website only up until I installed my fave Popup dictionnary addon, though !

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