I am curious if anybody uses a physical dictionary? Do you have any recommendations? How about dictionary apps?

I know I can use jisho.org, but I wonder if a paper dictionary would be better? Does anybody have any thoughts/ opinions/ recommendations to share?

Thank you!

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In my beginner’s enthusiasm, I bought one, put in on the shelf and never opened it.


Same here. I even bought one of those fancy electronic dictionaries for $300 and ended up downloading an app on my phone.

Edit: The apps I use are Shirabe Jisho and Midori. I have a few physical visual dictionaries by DK Publishing as well.

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If you are on android, I would suggest Takoboto app. It’c completely offline dictionary with contextual sentences.


I use physical copies of the 3 Makino/Tsutsui grammar dictionaries and the Kodansha Kanji Usage guide but for normal vocabulary look-up I just use weblio.jp


I have a macbook and I have an iphone and an apple watch >_> so iOS recommendations welcome LOL. I did discover my macbook has a dictionary, but I find it a bit difficult to use. I have A Basic Guide to Japanese Grammar as far as grammar dictionaries go. I’ll check out the apps, thank you so much everybody for your suggestions!

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When I’m at home, I use this paper dictionary.

Beginners might prefer this style of Japanese-English dictionary aimed at children. I often browse through these when I’m at school.


I use the app imiwa for iOS, I’m not sure if it’s available for Android.
You can look up words by kana, kanji or romaji, and it also translates text (I only use it for words and short sentences though).
You can also look up kanji by reading or by radicals and it has translations to English, German, Spanish, French and some other (this is helpful for me because I understand some of this languages and I can figure out the context better than by just looking at English or Spanish translation).
It also shows example sentences and common words made with the kanji.

If you look at the details for imiwa, it’s basically no different at its core from Jisho. They both rely on basically the same freely available databases of content. I guess there are always little features on the periphery that the app creator is in control of.

Though I use jisho a lot, especially for words I find online, I like to use a paper dictionary as well. The one I use and really like is Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary, with both Japanese to English and English to Japanese sections. It also has a bunch of example sentences, which I find really useful, as well as verb conjugations and a list of counters.

The only physical dictionary I have is the 日本語文型辞典. It’s a grammar dictionary aimed (primarily) at Japanese teachers, so it comes with tons of example sentences and clear explanations of the differences between similar grammar points.
It’s (obviously) Japanese only, so it requires a bit of prior language knowledge.

Other than that, I am usually using apps on my phone, or I look up definitions on kotobank. (Actually, one of my apps is the kotobank one).

I don’t use Jisho, so I couldn’t tell.

This is the dictionary that I own. I also find the example sentences and counters list very helpful. However, I think it is probably best for beginners, because it has a limited number of entries. I’ve gone to look a Japanese word up in it and not found an entry enough times to be frustrated. (These are not obscure words; afterwards I found them in jisho.)

[Edit: I thought it might be more useful if I give some examples. This morning I was translating the story on a children’s maze and ざいほう(treasure) and てっぺん(highest point, apex) were not in the dictionary on the J-E side.]

tldr; I would recommend this if your primary use case is writing essays for a Japanese class. I would not recommend it over online dictionaries if your primary use case is trying to read native material.

@dianarz Virtually every single free app and most websites are using EDICT, so they’re all the same.

As far as paper dictionaries, I have two, I have a somewhat old copy of Kenkyusha, which still gets a fair amount of use from me. Wisdom is a close second, but there’s no better E-J dictionary than Kenkyusha.

Secondly, I have a copy of 新字源 that I use to pretend like I’m really smart while looking up increasingly obscure Kanji.

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While you’re definitely right that Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary is missing a fair number of vocabulary that should probably be in it, (something I’ve noticed a few times myself) it does actually have はっけん (discovery) in it, right after はつげん (statement). I imagine you missed it because you were looking under はけ instead of under はつ, which is a completely understandable mistake. (Believe me, I make this mistake a lot.) I hope this is helpful for you and others who also have trouble with this :slight_smile:

The only physical / paper dictionary I own is a Classical Japanese dictionary I had to buy for a university course years ago… Needless to say it hasn’t had a huge amount of usage since I graduated, though it still sits on my office bookshelves just for the sake of the occasional “wtf do you have a 古語 dictionary for” comments from colleagues.

Honestly, while I get the criticism of the various online dictionaries, I’ve found myself relying on online resources entirely in recent years. Most of the things I need to look up are sector-specific jargon terms, and while they’re often not in jisho.org, Googling for them is faster and usually more informative than reaching for a paper dictionary. There’s an expensive Casio electronic dictionary sitting in my desk drawer for the same reason; by the time I pull it out, switch it on and search for the term I want, a copy-paste into Google will already have answered the question in more detail.

(That said, the Casio was indispensable a few years ago - I just outgrew it to some extent, I think.)

Ah! You’re right; I have now found it and edited my earlier comment. Thanks for pointing that out!

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