I am a foreign student living in Germany, who already has basic knowledge of German grammar.

The biggest problem I have now is lack of vocabulary when speaking on a particular topic. If there was a dictionary, or a search system, that could search contexts, so that if I search Schauspieler (actor), it would also give me links to Schauplatz (stage), Bühne (scene), Kostümbildner (costume designer) etc.

It does not have to be the ultimate comprehensive list, but something I could hold a conversation with. There is this pictorial dictionary from DUDEN, which does this to some extent, but it does not have things that difficult to draw, so it mostly focuses on classifications of inanimate objects.

Wiktionary helps with verbs to some extent, where if I search with steigen, I get einsteigen, aussteigen, umsteigen etc. But there is no all-in-one vocabulary builder that I could find. I would not mind paying for it.

  • 2
    In addition, the "Wortschatz-Portal der Uni Leipzig" does have a list of collocates, too, and provides images as well. For example see this image for "Schauspieler" or this one for "steigen". However, I don't know any appropriate dictionary which is designed for this purpose.
    – Em1
    Jan 2, 2013 at 11:30
  • @Em1: This is an awesome find! Thanks a lot for this! But why did you write it as a comment and not as an answer? Jan 2, 2013 at 12:12
  • This is based on corpora research. I could think of a way better dictionary for learners/beginners. I can provide this as an answer anyway if this is what you're looking for.
    – Em1
    Jan 2, 2013 at 12:23

2 Answers 2


You are looking for a dictionary that clusters words for some selected topics. In German it is called "thematischer Wortschatz". Major publishers specialising in language education do have books for exactly this issue. A quick look on amazon.com offers e.g. Mastering German Vocabulary: A Thematic Approach.

  • Very good advice! 'Am getting it! Jan 3, 2013 at 16:06

You might try a German / German dictionary (Einsprachiges Wörterbuch). If you look up a word in it, you will get an explanation in German, which includes some contextual information and offer synonyms. Of course, you might have to look up some of the other words used if it's a complex context. If you're searching for an online dictionary, you could give Glosbe or Duden Online a try.

You might also have a look at the Wortschatz-Portal. If you enter a word on this page, you will be given synonyms as well as other words which often appear in the same context.

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    How will looking up the definition of kochen in a German to German dictionary help me find backen, frittieren, braten, grillen etc.? Jan 2, 2013 at 17:53
  • Depending on the dictionary, you might find related words in the explanation text. However, I added a link to the Wortschatz-Portal which might be more what you are looking for.
    – Bob
    Jan 2, 2013 at 22:20

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