Japanese Dictionary – Guide to Apps and Translation Tools

Are you looking for a Japanese dictionary to look up Japanese phrases you hear all the time? We’ve got you covered!
Girl reading Japanese dictionaryWhen it comes to finding a good Japanese anime or a comic book, you can probably effortlessly find one. Yet, spotting the right resources to study Japanese might be different. Haven’t you thought that there aren’t enough resources?

Then, it’s about time to discover some Japanese dictionaries suitable for your interests and level. Today, we’re going to introduce some tips related to the Japanese dictionary and translation tool.

Japanese Dictionary Guide

Below is a comprehensive list of the best Japanese dictionaries and translators available in today’s market. A solid Japanese – English dictionary is handy if you’re looking to learn Japanese or if you wish to understand more about Japanese culture.

There are many ways to learn Japanese. Whether it is an online Japanese language course, a school manual, a native Japanese author of language training support, or a manual for all levels (from beginner to intermediate), the difficulty lies in choosing an effective method.

Best Japanese Dictionaries

The Japanese language is more complex than any language. Its dictionary should focus on ideograms and Japanese characters such as Katakana and Romaji. That’s why a good dictionary is essential when you learn Japanese.

Here are some recommendations for Japanese dictionaries to help you choose the right tool for you.

1. The Denshi Jisho (電子辞書)

The best option is to buy an electronic dictionary like the Casio Ex-word data plus as many of them are trilingual and can have in the same device 17 different dictionaries including English, Spanish, Japanese, and two versions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

In addition, this is best as it can be both a Japanese-English dictionary and an English-Japanese dictionary.

2. Dictionaries Apps for Android & IOS.

A go-to choice for today’s Japanese language learners is dictionary apps for your phone. It’s light, handy, and way cheaper than buying a bulky dictionary.

It’s best to download the apps on both your phone and iPad.

Our recommended dictionaries apps include Midori, a great bilingual dictionary with many example phrases for each Japanese word you look up, and the official dictionary of Kodansha: The “Kanji Reader’s Dictionary,” which is the electronic version of the paper dictionary.

3. Traditional Dictionaries

A good bilingual dictionary must not only have the translation of the word you want to search for, but it must also have example sentences in which the pragmatic use of the unknown word is contextualized.

Therefore it is recommended to buy a bilingual dictionary published in Japan because they are the same as the ones we can find in the Casio electronic dictionaries. We recommend “The New Nelson Dictionary,” with Japanese and English renderings.

This dictionary has two versions, the compact edition and the “Bible” edition, which by size occupies the same as the complete edition of the Lord of the Rings in a single volume.

If you are an intermediate learner or determined to study Japanese in-depth, this is a necessary purchase as it contains 32,000 entries and 7000 characters. It is a dictionary designed for English-speaking students.

The Best Japanese Romaji Dictionary

RomajiDesu is a free online English Japanese or Japanese English dictionary that contains the following tools for Japanese learners:

  • English-Japanese dictionary: A powerful and easy-to-use bi-directional English-Japanese dictionary where you just need to type your word into a single input in Japanese (Kanji, Hiragana, or Katakana), Romaji, or English and you’ll get definitions as well as example sentences.
  • Kanji dictionary: This includes a powerful Kanji search form and a multiple Kanji radical search method.
  • Japanese to English/Romaji translator: This powerful tool will translate a Japanese word or paragraph into Romaji and English and analyze the sentence structures for word types and parts of speech.

The Best English to Japanese Dictionaries

Many people rely on simple phrasebooks or dictionaries to help them communicate and learn different languages. Here are the two best English-Japanese dictionaries that we can recommend.

1. English Japanese Dictionary

Check out English-Japanese Dictionary if you’re starting to learn Japanese. It’s an excellent app that you can download. It translates all the words from English to Japanese with their pronunciation.

Aside from that, voice searches, antonyms, synonyms, study aids, and word games are also available. This is an easy-to-use English-Japanese dictionary.

2. Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary by Kodansha:

If you want a printed English-Japanese dictionary, one of our favorites is Kodansha’s Furigana Japanese Dictionary

Japanese learning requires a little patience for the first step to memorizing all Hiragana and Katakana and some KanjiIf you still rely on Romaji(ろーまじ)a lot for the moment, this Furigana Japanese Dictionary certainly is going to be a big help for you. 

Furigana(ふりがな)is the Japanese reading aid written in Hiragana next to or on top of each Kanji. This dictionary is a great introduction to the world of Kanji. It is also suited for an early intermediate learner if you want to take your Japanese to the next level.

Best Japanese – English Dictionaries

We have endless options for the Japanese English dictionary that will be a great tool for your language learning. So our list of Japanese English dictionaries does not stop there. We also have a few recommendations for the best Japanese-English dictionaries. Take a look at them below!

1. Jsho

One effective Japanese – English dictionary is Jsho. It has a wide range of Japanese words (Kanji, Katakana, and Romaji) to English. In addition, it includes example sentences and a variety of grammatical and vocabulary words.

Although it is ad-supported, it’s completely free to download, and you can use it offline. It also has a simple design that minimizes distractions while you learn Japanese.

2. Takoboto

Takoboto is another great Japanese – English dictionary with 200,000 Japanese word entries. It includes flashcards, katakana tables, example phrases, kanji with stroke order diagrams, and many more!

This has all the basic dictionary features including Kanji search by radicals. Its features are similar to those of highly-rated apps.

But the best part is that you can use it for free and without an internet connection as it can be used offline.

What is the Best Japanese Dictionary App?

Nihongo is an offline dictionary and flashcards app, plus a reading assistant, designed to make the best use of the time you spend studying Japanese. It has tons of words, example sentences, with 6000 Kanji entries.

This dictionary is made for you to find what you’re looking for quickly, with the words that Japanese speakers use heading each search result and with all words marked as “common,” “uncommon,” or “rare.”

“Snippets,” the reading assistant, is what sets Nihongo apart from other dictionaries. Paste Japanese text from a website, email, e-book, or anywhere, and we’ll add the furigana or romaji to each word. You can also click on any word to see its definition.

This will change the way you read Japanese. And now, you can get the same experience in Safari with the use of our Safari extension. To this end, Nihongo automatically extracts information from your search history and snippets to create decks of flashcards filled with words you already have context for.

How to say “Dictionary” in Japanese

First, let me introduce to you the Japanese word for “Dictionary” is じしょ. It’s pronounced as jisho. However, there are still other words for “dictionary.” Find them out below!

Other Japanese Words for Dictionaries

Nowadays, we have easy access to both paper dictionaries and online dictionaries to help boost your language learning. Therefore, learning a language with the help of dictionaries is simply getting less and less complicated. However, you better understand what you need to look for to find the right dictionary for you.

  • Jiten (じてん| dictionary)
  • Eiwajiten (えいわじてん | English-Japanese dictionary)
  • Waeijiten (わえいじてん | Japanese-English dictionary)
  • Kokugojiten (こくごじてん | Japanese-language dictionary)
  • Kanwajiten (かんわじてん | Kanji-Japanese dictionary)

Japanese Dictionaries Types

Before we go over the list of dictionaries below that you can use for your language learning, let’s make sure you’re familiar with the other types of Japanese dictionaries.

  • Hyakkajiten(ひゃっかじてん | encyclopedia)
  • Kogo Jiten(こごじてん | traditional Japanese dictionary)
  • Gendaigo Jiten(げんだいごじてん| modern Japanese dictionary)
  • Shingo Jiten(しんごじてん | new words dictionary)
  • Ruigo-taigigo Jiten(るいご・たいぎごじてん | thesaurus)
  • Denshi Jisho(でんしじしょ | electric dictionary)
  • Zatsugaku Jiten(ざつがくじてん | trivia collection)

How are Japanese dictionaries organized?

The majority of Japanese dictionaries are organized alphabetically by kana spelling. It is organized in go-juu-on (五十音) order, which means “fifty-sounds. This method arranges these characters as a table with five column vowels for every ten rows of consonants, for a total of 50 table cells.

Japanese Gojuon Table

As you can see, the five columns a-i-u-e-o (あ-い-う-え-お) are positioned at the head of the table. To be clear, it’s not a-e-i-o-u like in the Latin alphabet, but rather a-i-u-e-o. Sounds strange, right?

The ten rows include the consonant-free row, and the consonants k, s, t, n, h, m, y, r, and w. Once again, it’s strange, but it’s how it works in Japanese. Don’t worry; you’ll get used to it!

Note: The fifty sounds aren’t precisely fifty, and n (ん) doesn’t fit any place in the table; thus, it stands out more than the rest.

Other Japanese Dictionaries

Today’s Japanese learners have many options to choose from. You can effortlessly search for and download an app online with just one press. However, the more options you have, the better.

We have listed down additional dictionaries. Check them out to see if one of them fits your language learning style.

Online and Offline Dictionaries

No matter what, being multifunctional is the advantage of an online dictionary. You can search for the meaning of Japanese words in seconds, or listen to the word you were looking for.

There are so many options that you can do online! Here are a few examples:

Jisho


Are you looking for a dictionary with practical functions? If so, try using Jisho. You can type English words, any Japanese character, or Romaji to find its Japanese pronunciation, meanings, and correct writing.

Best Online and Offline Japanese Dictionaries - Jisho
Photo Credit: GitHub

Jisho’s Kanji drawing option works well with a computer mouse, but its Android app version is also available. It also has a function that teaches you how to write it. You’ll no longer feel afraid to encounter an unfamiliar Kanji.

Japan Dict.

A bit of grammatical information is helpful when you learn Japanese. JapanDict covers both Romaji and the original Japanese characters and some grammatical explanations.

If you’re struggling with the comprehension of conjugation, declension, or Keigo(honorifics/けいご), this dictionary might become one of your favorites. Also, don’t miss out on the Kanji drawing videos to learn how to write the Kanji stroke order.

Best Online and Offline Japanese Dictionaries - Japan Dict
Photo Credit: Japan Dict

In addition, if you don’t know how to spell Kanji, you can search for it by radicals and get their meanings or readings on this website. You can also discover four-character idioms called Yojijukugo(よじじゅくご)using the #yoji tag!

IMIWA?

IMIWA? is listed as a well-designed dictionary app as a multilingual dictionary for iOS. Popular features such as Romaji search, Kanji drawing search, example sentences, and offline use are available.

Best Online and Offline Dictionaries - Imiwa
Photo Credit: App Advice

This dictionary will show you all of the words’ translations, readings, how to write them, and some examples of using them in a sentence. It also displays the conjugation of verbs. With just one click and you can switch between neutral or polite forms.

Fun and Useful Dictionaries

A general dictionary is good, but a fun dictionary is even better to keep you motivated at the same time. Sometimes you can get the meaning of a word quickly with a picture or illustration’s help.

Fun dictionaries are also popular as a gift! Here are a few examples:

Japanese English Bilingual Visual Dictionary by DK

It’s a fun picture Japanese-English dictionary for all age groups, from children to adults.

Fun and Useful Japanese English Bilingual Visual Dictionary by DK
Photo Credit: Penguin Random House

All the words and information are authentic, and you can get to know some of the Japanese customs/culture/lifestyles together with basic vocabulary. It’s illustrated from a western point of view, so it certainly helps your understanding of Japan.

McGraw-Hill’s Japanese Illustrated Dictionary by Live ABC

Perhaps you dream of visiting Japan and exploring the country one day. McGraw-Hill‘s picture-based dictionary would be good support for your trip in the future. You can learn about 1,400 Japanese words and vocabularies in this dictionary while having fun looking at colorful and copious illustrations.

Fun and Useful McGraw-Hill's Japanese Illustrated Dictionary by Live ABC
Photo Credit: Amazon.co.jp

If you’re beginning to learn Japanese and prefer illustrations over photos, this choice would be one of the best. Besides Oxford-Duden Pictorial, Japanese & English Dictionary by Oxford University Press is another classic.

Japanese Food Dictionary for Android by Steve. Turtle

If you love Japanese food, you’re in luck! This is the food glossary that you may use.

The cute Onigiri (a rice ball/おにぎり)icon brings you knowledge of Japanese food. This Android app lets you travel around Japan without craving freshly prepared sushi or ramen noodles.

Fun and Useful Japanese Food Dictionary for Android by Steve. Turtle
Photo Credit: Google Play Store

The use of this app is simple. Just download it, and you can choose what kind of food you’re interested in or which restaurant you’re at first. Then necessary vocabularies and examples with pictures pop up on your phone. Hooray!

Japanese Translation Tools

Do you want to understand the meaning of a Japanese word/sentence/phrase right away? Then, below we have compiled several free online translators that, among other languages, work well with Japanese.

This way, you will get quality translations to understand everything from a simple message from your group of friends to an excerpt from a book.

Google and Microsoft

Two of the most popular online translators are Google and Microsoft. Google Translate stands out for its support for dozens of languages, including Japanese. It’s the easiest tool.

It provides how it sounds as well as the meanings. However, it’s not a completely precise translation. It gets a bit messier when you input long or complicated sentences. Try to break it down into shorter and simpler sentences to avoid trouble.

If you’re not a native English speaker, you might feel like you want to translate Japanese to your language or the other way. Though I strongly recommend sticking Japanese to English to avoid mistranslation.

You can also search or paste words or texts, speak aloud or attach documents. In addition, its mobile app allows you to translate images or posters through its camera.

Microsoft Translator has also improved a lot over the years. It allows you to translate text and audio, documents, text fragments, and websites.

DeepL

DeepL is an online translator that supports several languages, including Japanese and Chinese. It can translate text fragments or entire documents.

Among its unique features, it allows you to refine the translation of each word when searching for synonyms by context. In addition, it learns with each new translation, and we can use it in any connected browser, from a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

To use DeepL, you only need to copy and paste a text fragment, and the result will be displayed in seconds.

Baidu

Baidu Translator supports dozens of languages, including Chinese and Japanese and English and Spanish. They can translate from one language to another. And although its default interface is in Chinese, it is easy to understand the layout of the buttons and forms.

In addition, the languages to choose from can be selected in Chinese or English. Baidu’s translation is fast and effective. Just copy and paste the text. You can also play audio of the text to be translated and/or the translation.

Digital Dictionary or Analog Dictionary? It’s your choice!

In this digital era, we can travel freely with mobile dictionaries. But paper dictionaries have many advantages for studying a language in their way. If you want to purchase Japanese dictionaries or books, Books Kinokuniya(きのくにや), Amazon.jp, GOYOKIKIYA(ごようききや), and other similar sites might be a great help to you.

Wrap Up

In conclusion, whether you opt for a digital or analog Japanese dictionary, the choice ultimately hinges on your personal preference. What truly matters is selecting a dictionary that resonates with you and meets your needs. Regardless of the format, having a reliable dictionary at your disposal can be a game-changer in various scenarios.

It’s not just a tool for language learners; it’s a gateway to a world of knowledge and understanding. So, go ahead, choose the dictionary that feels right for you, and embark on your exciting journey to explore the depths of the Japanese language!

がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

    2 replies to "Japanese Dictionary – Guide to Apps and Translation Tools"

    • josh

      Jotoba (https://jotoba.de) is also a great Japanese dictionary! It’s really helpful when learning Japanese, especially the typing suggestions and the AI based word search help a lot. I can only recommend it!

      • 90 Day Japanese

        Thanks a lot for sharing, Josh! (,,>᎑<,,)

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