I want to purchase a good dictionary which will include also words that aren't used in nowadays German language.

I presume I need something that will include words from the last 200-500 years.

I looked at Amazon's website, the first page offers a dictionary by Collins, but it says that it's contemporary, so how much does it include ancient and not used words?

  • 5
    Math 500 years ago? You mean Latin?
    – c.p.
    Feb 25 '17 at 11:29
  • They didn't correspond in German 500 years ago in math literature?; no, for the moment I just want to read old math papers in German of people like Riemann, Hermite and others. I assume in the end if I want it to be as rigorous as I like it I'll need to dig into Latin, so also a good dictionary for Latin will be cool, but it's not in my immediate foreseen future.
    – Alan
    Feb 25 '17 at 12:50
  • 1
    Charles Hermite (1822–1901) was not German but French. Bernhard Riemann (1826–1866) lived 151 to 191 years ago, which is less than 200 years. Famous German mathematicians were for example: Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) and Leonhard Euler (1707–1783). But most famous German mathematicians lived and worked in the 19th century: Möbius (1790–1868), Jacobi (1804–1851), Dirichlet (1805–1859), Weierstraß (1815–1897), Kronecker (1823–1891), Dedekind (1831–1916), Cantor (1845–1918) and Klein (1849–1925). Only Keppler (1571–1630) and Leibnitz (1646–1716) are older. Feb 25 '17 at 13:53
  • Euler was Swiss.
    – c.p.
    Feb 25 '17 at 13:57
  • @c.p.: But he published in German. We are talking about the language, not the country. In this context I would also list Neumann and Gödel, although both was Austrian mathematicians. But I don't know if they published in German or in English, since they lived during a long period of their life in the USA. Feb 25 '17 at 14:05

Have a look at the Zedler – Johann Heinrich Zedlers Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon Aller Wissenschafften und Künste (sic), edited 1732–1754 on about 63.000 pages.

Of course you will not find this for sale, or if you do you must be a rich man to buy it. But you can access it online, thanks to a project of two German libraries and financing by the German Reserach Foundation (DFG).

I tried and looked up Sinus, as this is obviously a word they would have used (independent of them using German, French, or Latin for their correspondence). There you find, even with a nice picture of a circle and various lines:

Sinus, Sinus rectus, sinus naturalis, eines Bogens oder Winckels, heisset in der Trigonometrie die halbe Sehne des doppelten Bogens. Es sei A C die Sehne des Bogens ABC, oder auch des grossen A G C: so ist die Helfte davon A E der Sinus des halben Bogens A B, oder auch des halben Bogens A G, ingleichen des Winckels A D B oder auch des Winckels A G. Nemlich wenn man aus der Spitze eines Winckels D [...]


By using Wörterbuchnetz, you will have an access of almost all old dictionaries.

Some of the famous "ancient" dictionaries are;

Deutsches Wörterbuch von Jacob Grimm und Wilhelm Grimm


Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch von Benecke, Müller, Zarncke

In one of the provided dictionaries, you will certainly find, what you are looking for.


There is available on Amazon.com an inexpensive Amazon Kindle edition of an old (1891) German-English dictionary that while perhaps not being just exactly what is being looked for might, nonetheless, be of interest.

The Amazon Kindle edition is an old, 461-page, German to English dictionary available to the public on the English language Amazon for the rather low cost of USD 7.00. There is no shipping charge for Amazon's Kindle books, as the Kindle books are transmitted by Internet directly to the user's (no-cost) Kindle PC app.

The dictionary that I'm referring to is an English translation of the fourth German edition of Friedrich Kluge's Etymological Dictionary of the German Language, published in London by George Bell & Sons, in 1891. This translation of Kluge's work is by John Francis Davis, D.Lit, M.A.

There are several other offerings of this book on Amazon, but the book with the mottled brown cover which offers Amazon's "Look Inside! " feature is, I believe, the only one worth obtaining.

But first, be aware that an etymological dictionary differs from a conventional dictionary in that included with a word's definition are the roots (e.g. OHG = Old High German, etc), derivations, and equivalencies of the word in related languages.

Davis' translation begins with a brief one-page "Translators Preface" which summarizes the types of language dictionaries the dictionary's author (Kluge) consulted in composing his dictionary.

The translator's preface is followed by a more or less conventional two-page "Author's Preface" (Freidrich Kluge), dated "Strasburg July 1883 - Jena, October 1888", in which Kluge gives overall credit to specific individuals and others who helped him to compile and complete his dictionary.

The author's preface is followed by an interesting seven-page "Introduction" in which he expounds philologically on the roots and origins of various languages on what he calls "the mother tongue", and how the mother tongue has been impacted over the centuries by population change, migration, and evangelical missionaries.

The "Introduction" is then followed by a two-page, double-column, "List of Abbreviations", the necessary abbreviations used in the dictionary for grammar and syntax terms, and the names of the languages referenced in the body of the dictionary, as for example "Prak.= Prakrit"; "Amor.= Amorican"; "Americ.= American"; "E.= English", and so forth.

The alphabetized 'dictionary-content' of the dictionary then follows the preliminary materials; German words are defined (briefly), and their etymology explained, most of them in greater detail than found in normal dictionaries.

An "Additions and Corrections" page with corrections to seven words in the dictionary follows after the conclusion of the dictionary entries.

Kluge's dictionary is ended by an unusual index, four columns wide, titled "Index to the words quoted from Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and English, showing the German word under which they will be found." The index starts with Greek (Old, Middle, and Modern), followed by Latin (Old, Law, and Middle); Italian; French; and English (including Scotch).

An extract from Kluge's dictionary provides an example of the overall style of the definitions are like the entry for:

"Thon, m, 'clay', earlier xxxx ModHG, then xxxx from MidHG and xxxx OHG

(the xxxx represents word variations with Gothic fonts that are not easy to discern without further magnification)

Note: In the early 1930's the character-initial consonants "TH" in words like "thon" were simplified to the single initial consonant "T".

The content of the dictionary does include some words and derivations whose history does go back several hundred and more years; some of the words defined in Kluge's dictionary then do most certainly meet the questioner's criteria for including words "...from the last 200 to 500 years".

For all the good features of Kluge's etymological dictionary, there are drawbacks and disadvantages to the utility and scholarly value of the Kindle edition of this dictionary over a library-quality hardcopy of the book.

Firstly, a good knowledge of Gothic fonts is an absolute necessity for the user, as the dictionary's text font is normally and entirely "Gothic" -- and an older version at that. The exception to the use of the Gothic font is where a font similar to Times Roman is used in parenthetical notes in the way that contemporary usage is with an italic font.

Secondly, and I think perhaps more importantly, expanding the page views to any large size than "full page" is impossible; consequently a large magnifying glass or a page-sized magnifying sheet (available at "Staples" stationary stores) becomes a welcome "viewing-fatigue" solution.

Kluge's book is a good example of the branch of intellectual study called "Philology", where languages (for example) are studied holistically, that is, studied in the context of surrounding variables. Since languages and the words they contain are unavoidably subject to change, to be knowledgeable in studying the works of notable German mathematicians in the original language clearly requires a knowledge and understanding of the changes that have occurred to words in that language over time.

Etymological dictionaries are a great help with obtaining that knowledge and understanding.

  • 1
    Can you please edit your answers to narrow it down to what actually addresses the question?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 21 '17 at 12:44
  • @Wrzlprmft: Although I'm a 90+wpm typist, unfortunately I'm not able to type briefly and quickly using only my thumbs. So unlike today's 'moderns', my questions and answers (entered using an old-fashioned desktop computer with detached English-Russian keyboard and video terminal) tend to be longer, more thoughtful, and more intellectually composed and edited. Mar 23 '17 at 2:44
  • @Wrzlprmft: I'm sorry. I'm not able to type briefly and quickly using only my thumbs. So my questions and answers (entered using an old-fashioned desktop computer with detached English-Russian keyboard and video terminal) tend to be longer, more thoughtful, and more intellectually composed. That being said, would you please state more succinctly -- and, please,much more specifically -- just what it is that you dislike so much about my answer that you feel such a need to punish me for it? Vieleicht muss ich auf Deutsch mein Antwort für ihnen geschrieben? Oder in Plattdeutsch oder Hollandish? Mar 23 '17 at 3:08
  • 2
    The language is not the problem. The question is asking for a dictionary for a specific purpose. A good answer would say why the suggested dictionary is suited for that purpose (see, e.g., the other answer). By contrast, your answer is essentially a review of said dictionary, describing a lot of aspects that are not relevant within the scope of this question, such as the preface, spelling changes, the nature of philology, and so on. The only way it addresses the question is by being about a dictionary.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 23 '17 at 7:20
  • 1
    By the way: 1) Dropping the th in non-loanwards happened before the 1930s, but in course of the spelling reform of 1901. 2) Zooming beyond a page should be possible in any good e-book viewer. Using a physical magnifying glass on such a device is somewhat bizarre.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Mar 23 '17 at 7:24

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