Monolingual dictionary corner

Thank you for all the information you provide in this thread! I must confess I haven’t yet gotten around to reading everything, but I have bookmarked it for future reference. I will be looking into buying one good monolingual dictionary sometime in the future, and this thread will be invaluable to me then.

As I haven’t yet read everything in detail I can’t really answer your questions, but I’ll try. I’m personally not very interested in elementary school level dictionaries, as I expect their entries to be rather limited (judging by other languages), even if their definitions are simpler. I also wouldn’t be interested in video presentations, text for me is always better. The short write-ups look just fine to me, but it’s possible I might look for more detail when I’m actively trying to select a dictionary, so I can’t answer that definitively.

One thing I’ve always liked looking for in dictionaries are idioms and expressions. Even jisho covers many of those of course, but I do come across expressions once in a while that I can only find by googling outside of dictionaries. I appreciate any dictionary that makes an effort to include and explain them.


This is quite a fair point, though there are a few cases where I would want to defend the use case of elementary school level dictionaries. There are three reasons that pop up in my head quite quickly, namely :

  1. They’re THE best dictionaries to carry around with you in my opinion IF you want to use a paper dictionary (I mostly only take on with me when camping or stuff where I need to conserve my cellphone battery, but it is great for that), especially as several of them come in “wide” editions, but in both versions the text is easy to read, while in other paper dictionaries you sort of have to squint. If you’re only ever going to use digital though, this point would be moot.
  2. While the definitions are definitely easy, the selection of headwords is quite strong for readers of matter that isn’t too specific yet, while I often find words I don’t encounter in these types of dictionaries, it is with quite similar frequency to any of the other small dictionaries.
  3. The inclusion of drawings / pictures for many nouns, which definitely does speed things up if you don’t just Google first for pictures (or don’t have access to the Google for whatever reason).
  4. (bonus) This might not be for everyone, but they’re the only dictionaries I personally just leaf / read through on occasion to encounter random words :person_shrugging:

I’m gonna be honest, somewhat of a relief to hear. I know some people prefer video format, so I wouldn’t MIND doing something like that, but I have never done that sort of stuff before, so all the better if I don’t have to figure it out :stuck_out_tongue:

I’ll see if other people share their opinions, but I might just keep this format then. If you EVER need more in depth information or examples or whatever on any dictionary that grabs your interest, feel free to bother me though :stuck_out_tongue: I’d love for nothing more than help show some examples or whatever to help make your selection!

If this is your cup of tea and you have access to an apple device, there is nothing I could recommend as heartily as the monokakido app, that has a search field just for idioms ^^ Sure, whether the exact idiom would be in the specific dictionary you bought will still depend on their selection, but it is a fantastic extra tool!

Example of idiom search :



Q1 - I think you opinions on elementary school dictionaries would be interesting. I haven’t seen many reviews on the usefulness for language learners.

Q2 - I find the thread to be excellent both in content and format. It is a great reference that I send some people to.

If you have time on your hands and want to learn about video production, video format using these written reviews as an outline would be fun and provide wider coverage. Partly because the YouTube & Google searches are poorly integrated. I like watching dictionary videos but these are niche videos, with an ambitious goal of a few thousand views.


I’ll do a few write-ups then ^^

I appreciate the kind words :bowing_man:

I see ^^ I will definitely try and give a shot to making a video or two on the subject, and if I’m happy with how they turn out I’ll post them here then :stuck_out_tongue: A few thousand views seems like a huge number though tbh, would be worth the effort if like a dozen people found a use for it ^^

Thank you for the feedback :bowing_man:


So, after a quick skim re-read of some of the early posts, I wasn’t sure if the one remaining question I have is covered:

If buying more than one dictionary, say on the Monokakido app (for example), what combination of dictionaries would you suggest? For best coverage of terms in general, or terms plus idioms and such, or some other reason.

I know you’ve put the Monokakido dictionaries in the order you’d recommend them in the post Making the Monolingual leap, but I wasn’t sure if you’d actually recommend buying the top three, or if some other combination might be better.


While my exact recommendations would vary a bit depending on the person’s level, the amount of dictionaries they are looking to buy and how they want to use it, my general advice would be :

If you are just buying one dictionary :

Read up on the entries for whichever one has your fancy (But 明鏡国語辞典 is a great starter one, and the one I would most thoroughly advice)

Two dictionaries :

The first one again should be the one that has your fancy, but the second one depends on which of the camps your first one falls in, if your first one was from camp A I would suggest picking one up from camp B for best coverage / biggest variation in explanations and vice versa (Note : I have arranged them in each camp in the order I would personally recommend them for a general reader at this point in time, though this order can change depending on personal needs) :

Camp A (simpler dictionaries) :

  • 明鏡国語辞典
  • 三省堂国語辞典
  • 三省堂 新明解国語辞典

Camp B (broader dictionaries) :

  • 大辞林4
  • 日本国語大辞典
  • 大辞泉

You want to buy more than two :

It’s only after you have already bought more than two dictionaries that I would start to consider Kanji dictionaries, but a thesaurus is a fantastic tool to explore your dictionaries deeper, and I would advice picking one up as soon as you are in the market for a third dictionary. My main recommendation would be 日本語シソーラス 類語検索辞典 as I fall back on that one a bit more, but both picks are quite solid.


So I haven’t personally bought any yet. I’m hoping the app will have another spring sale like it had last year. :crossed_fingers:

And I haven’t decided how many I’ll pick up, minimum one. But I think I’m looking between 1-3, where I’d probably pick up a group A and a group B, for good coverage of words in general.

For a third, I’d probably want more niche things covered, maybe a lot of idioms and expressions, slang, that kinda thing. Don’t think I’m interested in a kanji dictionary, and I don’t see how a thesaurus would be useful unless I plan to write in Japanese (and I’m not a read a dictionary for fun kinda person).

So I guess, what would be your top pick(s) for slang/idiom/expressions?


For slang and the like 三省堂国語辞典 has a modernist approach to their dictionaries, so you are most likely to see current terms and the like reflected in there.

As for the best for idioms and the like, I’ll run a more thorough test tomorrow as I need to go cook and then off to work, but I did a quick run through of the first 10 idioms of this article, and the results were as follows :


1 :


2 :

Kanken (2)

3 :

Kanjikai (2)
Shinjigen (2)
Kanken (3)

4 :

Kanjikai (3)
Shinjigen (3)
Kanken (4)

5 :

Kanjikai (4)
Shinjigen (4)
Kanken (5)

6 :

Meikyo (1)
Daijirin (1)
Daijisen (1)
Daijiten (1)

7 :

Kanjikai (5)
Shinjigen (5)
Kanken (6)

8 :

Kanken (7)

9 :

Kanjikai (6)
Shinjigen (6)
Kanken (8)

10 :

Kanjikai (7)
Kanken (9)

The Kanken kanji dictionary was the runaway winner with a 90% hitrate, with the Kanjikai and the Shinjigen (both also Kanji dictionaries) the only other worthwhile contenders. So if idioms are your specific like, it might be worthwhile to consider a kanji dictionary (and the Kanken is the most worthwhile in my eyes).

But as I said, I’ll do some more thorough testing tomorrow, this weekend or next week and tag you for a better answer :wink:


I’m not the one you asked, but I have an opinion anyways :see_no_evil:
One thing worth considering is that of those six, you already have access to Daijiten (kotobank), Daijisen (goo) and a version of Daijirin (macos/ios native). So as long as you don’t mind going outside of the app in a pinch, you get more for your money buying the others. (At least I don’t think Meikyou, Shinmeikai and Sansedio have web versions?)

Having used all six of them for a while, personally Daijiten is my least favorite, especially considering how pricy it is.
Imo Shinmeikai is the one most worth getting, because of how different its definitions are from the other dictionaries. It being a bit wordy makes it hard for someone new to monolingual dictionaries, but after a while it became my favorite.
You’ll probably want at least one with lots of headwords for decent coverage, which I’d get either Daijirin or Daijisen for. I know Daijirin is fairly cheap when its on sale, but you already have a version of that on all apple devices. Not sure about the Daijisen price :thinking:
That leaves Meikyou and Sanseido. Both have fairly few entires, and both feel like simplified versions of other dictionaries at times. (Meikyou for Daijirin/Daijisen and Sanseido for Shinmeikai). Buut they also bring their own benefits. Sanseido has the most concise entries and is also cheap. Meikyou is probably the easiest to get into and is great for looking up grammar.

… a bit hard to narrow it down because I love all 5 in some way :rofl:
I’d probably look at price tags when the back to school sale happens in April and base the final decision on that :3

Realized this isn’t much of an answer, so if I had to uninstall all but three dictionaries I’d personally pick
… and perhaps Sanseido because it’s like 10$ on sale? :see_no_evil:


A lot of these are listed as headwords in other dictionaries, not as idioms, that should be why they didn’t show up in the kokugo dictionaries. Checked real quick, I think Meikyou, Daijirin and Daijisen had an entry for every one of those.


Ah, indeed :man_facepalming: As I said, was checking things really quickly (but honestly, should have realized, was quite perplexed they didn’t show up so often :sweat_smile: )


The first ten you looked for are kanji only, so it makes sense that kanji dictionaries will feature them, but I don’t expect kanji dictionaries to be richer in idioms than regular dictionaries generally.

If and when you have the time, could you run a search for these two (one is kanji only again, I’m afraid):

Not sure if they’re classified as idioms or expressions or what, but I couldn’t find them in my regular dictionary and had to google them. Curious which dictionaries feature them, if any.

I’m sure I’ve seen more that I couldn’t easily find their definitions, but I don’t know how easily I can find them again…


Really quick in between getting ready to leave for work :stuck_out_tongue:

Both show up just in one dictionary (上命下服 showed up in both the 7th and 8th edition of 三省堂国語辞典 which is why you see two results)


Thank you!


Thanks for the replies to my questions so far. @anon3564849 I look forward to seeing what you find when you do a deeper dive. :smiley:


I’m still going to be running a few tests later tonight as I have to still tackle slang, but I thought I already had enough here to at least answer your question for idioms / expressions. To compile this test I first grabbed the 60 most searched four kanji idioms from 四字熟語一覧 - goo辞書 and then non intuitively decided to search for 40 expressions from English language sites. Reason? These articles might take really weird ones because they seem deep or something :person_shrugging:

Anyway, below a list with the results of each term searched, as well as totals at the bottom. I also included if they were present as examples separately, as I wouldn’t count that as a proper “definition”, but it’s nice to know it’s at least in the dictionary

Idioms Kanken Shinjigen Kanjikai 4 Daijirin 4 Daijisen Daijiten Shinmeikai Meikyo Sankoku
明鏡止水 x x x x x x x x x
花鳥風月 x x x x x x x x x
反面教師 x x x x x x x
一期一会 x x x x x x x x
因果応報 x x x x x x x x x
風林火山 x x x x x
魑魅魍魎 x x x x x x x x x
温故知新 x x x x x x x x x
温故知新書 (*) x x x
臥薪嘗胆 x x x x x x x x x
十人十色 x x x x x x x
酒池肉林 x x x x x x x x x
三寒四温 x x x x x x x
本末転倒 x x x x x x x
一朝一夕 x x x x x x x x x
一蓮托生 x x x x x x x x
画竜点睛 x x x x x x
諸行無常 x x x x x x x x x
諸行無常偈 (*) x
百花繚乱 x x x x x x E x x
朝三暮四 x x x x x x x x x
唯一無二 x x x x E x E
初志貫徹 x x E E E
四面楚歌 x x x x x x x x x
七転八起 x x x x x
虚心坦懐 x x x x x x x x
天衣無縫 x x x x x x x x x
敬天愛人 x x x x x x
疑心暗鬼 x x x x x x
乾坤一擲 x x x x x x x x x
手前味噌 x x x x x x x
日進月歩 x x x x x x x x x
捲土重来 x x x x x x x x x
切磋琢磨 x x x x x x x x x
慇懃無礼 x x x x x x x
雪中四友 x
唯我独尊 x x x x x x
勇往邁進 x x x x x
泰然自若 x x x x x E x x
試行錯誤 x x x x x x x
森羅万象 x x x x x x x x x
臨機応変 x x x x x x x x x
不撓不屈 x x x x x E x
満身創痍 x x x x E x x
天真爛漫 x x x x x x x x
喜怒哀楽 x x x x x x x x x
一意専心 x x x x E x E
不易流行 x x x x E x x
有象無象 x x x x x x x x x
岡目八目 x x x x x x x
色即是空 x x x x x x E x x
紆余曲折 x x x x x x x x x
呉越同舟 x x x x x x x x x
公明正大 x x x x x x x x
付和雷同 x x x x x x x x
一陽来復 x x x x x x x x x
鶏口牛後 x x
虎視眈眈 x x x x x x x x x
大器晩成 x x x x x x x x x
一生懸命 x x x x x x x
磊磊落落 x x x x x
大義名分 x x x x x x x x x
大義名分論 (*) x x
腹八分に医者いらず E x E E E
七転び八起き x x x x x x
猿も木から落ちる x x x x x
知らぬが仏 x x x x x x
花より団子 x x x x x x
相変わらず x x x x x x
朝飯前 x x x x x x
地獄に仏 x x
見ぬが花 x x x x
氷山の一角 x x x x x x
隣の芝生は青い x x x
必要悪 x x x x x x
時は金なり x x x E x x
武士は食わねど高楊枝 x x x E x x
雨が降ろうと、槍が降ろうと x x
砂を噛むよう x x x
爪の垢を煎じて飲む x x x x x
馬鹿は死ななきゃ治らない E
喉から手が出る x x x x x x
ごまめの歯ぎしり x x x
覆水盆に返らず x x x E x x
猫に小判 x x x x x x
蛙の子は蛙 x x x E x
水に流す x x x x x x
二兎を追う者は一兎をも得ず x x x x x
明日は明日の風が吹く x x x x
口は災いの元 E x
出る杭は打たれる x x x E x x
案ずるより産むが易し x x x x E x
磯の鮑の片思い x x x x
惚れた病に薬なし x
鯛も一人はうまからず x
継続は力なり x x
石の上にも三年 x x x x x x
雨降って地固まる x x x E x x
負けるが勝ち x x x E x x
DEFINITIONS 55 32 34 87 92 87 61 77 77
EXAMPLES 0 0 0 2 1 0 13 4 3
TOTAL 55 32 34 89 93 87 74 81 80

Ooooh, very nice. :smiley: I have no idea how you’d go about doing this for slang. Honestly, this is a lot of work and I appreciate that.

On another note :sweat_smile:, I just looked through the thread to look at your individual entries for the broad dictionaries and realized you haven’t written them up (or I’m blind, which could be it :sweat_smile:). If nothing else, I’d be interested in knowing why you have them in the order you do, like in this post.

Although at this point I’m probably getting Daijisen because it has the broadest coverage of idioms/expressions, although I get Daijirin 4 and Daijiten are almost the same. (So might depend on price.) Also, @GrumpyPanda mentioned I do have access to some of those already, so… Will figure that out more exactly when the back to school sale begins.


A bit unrelated, but a version of this comes up in 今夜、世界からこの涙が消えても, the second’ish volume of 今夜、世界からこの恋が消えても. If I remember correctly it’s a translation of an english proverb, so perhaps that’s why it doesn’t come up :thinking: (… though I’m doubting my recollection, why would people list that as a Japanese idiom? :rofl: )


Ah yes, that is correct, I have just finished the small dictionaries at the moment. Still need to tackle the middle-sized ones, which are :

  • Daijirin
  • Daijisen
  • Koujien
  • Daijiten (short or 3rd edition, this is because the 日本国語大辞典 sees quite a difference between 2nd edition (500.000 entries, 1.000.000 examples) and the third edition (300.000 entries, 300.000 examples)

Large dictionaries (only one really :

  • 日本国語大辞典 (2nd edition)

Elementary school dictionaries :

  • 新レインボー小学国語辞典
  • 例解学習国語辞典
  • 光村の辞典
  • チャレンジ小学国語辞典

And a lot of specific dictionaries and the like, still lots of work ahead :sweat_smile: But I need to get a dictionary at least in my hands (and most often this means ending up buying it for myself) and using it for a while to get a feel for it and at least take a brief look at its indexes and the like, reading some reviews, watching some videos if available, … So it always takes a while to do a new batch, write ups for the middle sized ones (except koujien, while this dictionary is available for purchase on the macOs app store, this is only the case if you live in Japan :unamused: . As such I haven’t had the pleasure of working with it myself. If anyone knows a way to bypass this restriction, please let me know, as just using a VPN doesn’t seem to work. I could buy the physical one, but I really don’t use middle sized paper ones, bought the Daijisen a long time back and have had it open maybe three times, so that feels like a lot of money to sit unused :stuck_out_tongue: ) are in the works at least, expect them relatively soon-ish ^^

Yeah, you can just take your time ^^ Normally has all three of those in their database unless something changed, so you could always just use that one for a bit and see which of the three feels most natural to you :wink:

That’s a hard one to give exact explanations on, it’s mostly how I feel about the difficulty / thoroughness of their definitions, how I like them myself, … It’s more a “gut feeling” than cold hard facts, and the order I’d recommend has changed before, and probably will change again in the future, sorry :bowing_man:

Idea was to look up a key selection of slang from various decades, as well as a few categories, some present day internet slang and the like, to get 10 - 20 entries over around 10 or so categories, and just repeat :stuck_out_tongue: I’ll actually get started on it in a few hours, so just hoping I’ll be able to compile the lists without too much difficulty, we’ll see ^^


That certainly could be the case! Hadn’t come across the English proverb before, so didn’t think about that possibility. As for why? Probably one site did it for a lark or something, other sites copied without fact-checking, and things snowballed :stuck_out_tongue: