7 Best French-English Dictionaries (Books) 2021

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Written by Gwenydd Jones

Translator, translator trainer and copywriter

Which is the best French-English dictionary? You might use online resources a lot of the time, but sometimes you want an actual physical copy. We’ve researched them all for you. Whether you’re a translator or a French student, read on for our top tips and recommendations!

How do I choose a bilingual dictionary?

There are lots of French-English dictionaries to choose from and they’re suited to different purposes. It can be hard to know which one will best fit your needs. Here are the important things to look at when choosing a bilingual dictionary:

  • Date of the latest edition. You want the most up-to-date language information possible.
  • Number of words it contains. For professional translators, the more entries the better. But if you’re a language learner, perhaps you don’t need to search through so many French words. A less comprehensive dictionary will be cheaper and easier to use.
  • Hardback or paperback. If you need to carry the dictionary around with you, the fewer pages the better.
  • Extras. Depending on your needs, you may care more or less about extras like French verb conjugations, lists of French acronyms, free audio downloads to help with pronunciation, free apps and sample documents.

We’ve scoured the Internet and Amazon to find out everything you need to know. So, if you’re looking to invest and searching for the best French-English dictionary in 2021, read on!

If you’re a translator thinking of sitting the DipTrans exam, you can only use paper resources. So, you’re going to need the best French-English dictionary you can find. Even if the DipTrans isn’t your goal, a lot of translators like to keep a print version of a good dictionary on hand.  After all, even the best online dictionary can’t save you if you’ve got a deadline and lose your connection.

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Conclusion on which is the best French-English dictionary in 2021

It’s a good idea to read this complete article for detailed information on each of the bilingual dictionaries researched. But if you want your dictionary and you want it now, here’s what we recommend.

Best choice for professional translators and university students:

Buy the Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary

Even though the latest edition was published in 2007, it’s the most comprehensive dictionary by far. This makes it more likely you’ll find the word you need.

Best choice for pre-university language learners:

In the UK:

There’s a lot of competition for lower-level language learners. The Collins French Dictionary: Pocket Edition is affordable and covers all the bases. The clincher is that the latest edition was published in 2017, which means it’ll contain newer words.

In the USA:

Updated in 2016 and with 100,000 entries, we like the French-English Dictionary (Barron’s Bilingual Dictionaries) for speakers of US English.

Which is the best French-English dictionary in 2021? Check out our recommendations for UK and US English #languages Click To Tweet

Robert French Dictionary Complete and Unabridged edition (Collins Complete and Unabridged) 

Latest edition: 2020

This dictionary is a collaboration between Collins and Le Robert. It has been revised and updated to include all the latest vocabulary in English and French. The publishers advertise it as being suitable for advanced French learners and language professionals.

Features

  • Contains 310,000 words, meanings and phrases.
  • Updated with new words from fields like the Internet, economics and the environment.
  • Includes “culture boxes” to explain the origins of phrases from literature, film and popular culture. This helps with translation and can improve your understanding of French popular culture.
  • Offers a “Language in Use” supplement with hundreds of examples of how to use language in real-life contexts such as email to help you use French naturally.
  • Is also available as an iPhone app.
  • Includes tips on grammar and how to use words in certain phrases.

On the downside, some people claim the quality of the paper could be improved. The pages are said to be thin and see through, which makes it harder to see the words.

Pricing

This is the large hardback Collins and so it’s a bigger investment than the pocket dictionaries. You get a lot for your buck, though.

Bottom line

This is a comprehensive dictionary with a new edition from 2020. It would seem ideal for high-school students (though not particularly portable). With 310,000 words, professional translators may find it lacking, but it may suit university students.

Check out the Collins Complete and Unabridged – Robert French Dictionary: For Advanced Learners and Professionals

Larousse Pocket French Dictionary: French-English/English-French

Latest edition: 2011

The Larousse pocket dictionary is a user-friendly option for everyday use. It’s a light-weight paperback with a clear layout. This dictionary offers up-to-date vocabulary in all subject areas. It’s suitable for studying a language or finding the word you need while on holiday. In fact, there are tips to guide the user to the most appropriate translation to help you communicate on your travels. 

Features

  • Contains 180,000 words, phrases, and translations.
  • Includes hundreds of usage examples.
  • Provides abbreviations, acronyms and proper nouns.
  • Has verb conjugation tables.

Pricing

As it’s a pocket version, this is one of the cheapest dictionaries we’ve reviewed here.

Bottom line

A portable dictionary, great for quickly checking a word or use on the move. Suitable for lower level language learners. Not a good option as your only resource in an exam like the DipTrans or for a professional translation job.

Check out the Larousse Pocket French-English/English-French Dictionary (English and French Edition)

Oxford (Oxford Hachette) Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary 

Latest edition: 2007

This is the granddaddy of French-English dictionaries. Popular among language professionals worldwide, the Oxford-Hachette French dictionary is a comprehensive and reliable choice. It was created using electronic databanks of real written and spoken language, and under academic advice. The latest edition (2007) includes acronyms and EU terminology, plus thousands of new words in both English and French.

Features

  • Contains 910,000 words spanning everything from technology and medicine to colloquial slang.
  • Has a clear colour layout, which is nice to use.
  • Provides useful information like sample bills and rental agreements, which can be helpful for translators and ex-pats moving to France.
  • Offers updated cultural notes to help you understand the essence of the language.
  • Includes words, phrases, accurate and up-to-date translations, advice on grammar, a section on verbs, sample letters, CVs and resumes, guides to the Internet and email, cultural notes and specific additional information such as colours, numbers and measurements. 

Pricing

The Oxford-Hachette is one of the leading hardback bilingual dictionaries. It’s one of the more expensive bilingual dictionaries we’ve reviewed here but worth every penny.

Bottom line

This is certainly a behemoth of a dictionary. If you’re looking for a really solid resource for sitting the DipTrans, then you should have this hardback on your shelf. If you’re looking for a quick pocket dictionary or something more portable then this won’t fit the bill.

Check out the Oxford-Hachette French Dictionary

Merriam Webster Pocket French-English Dictionary (Pocket Reference Library) 

Latest edition: 2008

This is a bilingual compact guide to the French and English languages.

Features

  • Contains more than 40,000 entries, including Canadian French terms.
  • Includes English pronunciations based on the International Phonetic Alphabet.
  • Has special sections, including verb conjugations.

Pricing

You can find this dictionary at a similar price to the other pocket dictionaries (low investment).

Bottom line 

An advantage of this dictionary is that it also covers Canadian French terms. Although not suitable as your only resource for an exam like the DipTrans, it could be useful for anyone dealing with European and Canadian French in their professional or personal life.

Check out the Merriam-Webster’s Pocket French-English Dictionary (Pocket Reference Library) (English and French Edition)

Webster’s New World French Dictionary (2nd Ed): French/English English/French

Latest edition: 2008 

The last edition of this dictionary of contemporary words and phrases was fully updated to reflect changes in language and usage.

Features

  • Contains 70,000 references and 100,000 translations.
  • Offers free audio downloads with pronunciations of key verbs in all conjugations.
  • Includes a supplement to help learners with basic conversational skills.
  • User-friendly layout.

Pricing

This is a mid-to-low price dictionary.

Bottom line

This bilingual dictionary won’t be comprehensive enough for translators. But, for learners of French, there’s enough content and the free audio downloads could be really useful.

Check out the Webster’s New World French Dictionary (2nd Ed)

French-English Dictionary (Barron’s Bilingual Dictionaries) 

Latest edition: 2016

This US English-French dictionary is a manageable size and retails at a reasonable price. It’s a more recent edition than some of the others listed here. Indeed, it includes new vocabulary for computers, the Internet and IT.

Features

  • Contains 100,000 entries with translations and example sentences.
  • Provides separate bilingual lists for numerals, abbreviations and so on.
  • Offers a free downloadable bilingual electronic dictionary.
  • Includes full-colour maps, grammar guides and regular verb conjugation lists.

Pricing

Another mid-to-low price dictionary. 

Bottom line

This is worth looking into if you’re working from American English or maybe sitting the ATA translator certification exam. It’s a decent size and not a bad price. It could be a good complement to a larger French-English dictionary.

Check out the French-English Dictionary (Barron’s Bilingual Dictionaries)

Collins French Dictionary (Collins Pocket) 

Latest edition: 2017

This bilingual pocket dictionary is designed to let you keep all the information you need handy. Recently updated, it covers a wide range of areas in French and English.

Features

  • Contains 40,000 words and phrases and 60,000 translations.
  • Has an easy-to-read layout.
  • Provides French verb tables and info on how to avoid common errors and false cognates.
  • Offers an in-depth “French in Focus” supplement with information about life in French-speaking countries and French language and culture.
  • Includes full GCSE coverage for UK-based French learners (high-school students aged 15-16).

Pricing

As a pocket dictionary, this will be at the lower end of the dictionary pricing scale.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for a recent pocket dictionary at an affordable price, this could be a good option.

Check out the Collins French Dictionary: Pocket Edition

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