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Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary

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Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary

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Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary
Editors-in-Chief Solon Beinfeld and Harry Bochner
Based on the Dictionnaire Yiddish-Français
Indiana University Press: Bloomington & Indianapolis: 2013
ISBN: 978-0-253-00983-8

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 20, 2013

New and up-to-date, the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary, edited by Solon Beinfeld and Harry Bochner, is a must-have book for both students of Yiddish and fluent Yiddish speakers and writers. This dictionary contains more than 37,000 entries that cover both colloquial and academic vocabularies. This essential reference book begins with an invaluable user's guide that not only introduces readers to the Yiddish alphabet, but also provides a detailed guide on how to use this dictionary and the information it provides within the entries. This information ranges from morphological details to a detailed explanation of how verbs are handled in this dictionary. Supplemental material includes a lists of the abbreviations found throughout the text, and a variety of helpful tables covering topics such as common suffixes and several tables listing irregular forms of the various parts of speech.

For years I've been using Uriel Weinreich's Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary for one simple reason. It was the dictionary that I acquired when I first began studying Yiddish. At the time, it was the most readily available Yiddish-English dictionary. While I've always found it to be useful, I have found its usefulness to be limited at times. Many modern terms are missing, and the Weinreich dictionary tended to stick rather strictly to an academic flavored vocabulary. The new Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary does not adhere to these strictures.

Within the pages of this outstanding dictionary you'll find not only literary terms, but also a wealth of colloquial and spoken expressions, along with idioms, slang terms, and some vulgarities. Various dialectic forms are present. You'll find a rich assortment of modern terms adopted into Yiddish from other languages such as modern German, Slavic languages, or American English. Words derived from Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Romance languages are also included, along with Jewish cultural terms. In addition, this new dictionary contains almost twice the number of entries than are in the Weinreich dictionary.

Most important, once you read through the user's guide, you'll find this Dictionary very easy to use, even for beginning students of Yiddish. The entries are laid out intuitively and include complete information about the various parts of speech that each term belongs. The actual lexical lists used in this dictionary was adapted from the famed Dictionnaire Yiddish-Français by Yitskhok Niborski and Bernard Vaisbrot, which was published by Bibliothèque Medem, Paris: 2002. The English translations in the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary has been garnered from a variety of sources and thoroughly vetted by Beinfeld, who is a Yiddish translator who taught modern European and modern Jewish history at Washington University in St. Louis and by Bochner, who is a Yiddishist and a noted linguist.

Published by Indiana University Press, the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary also has a couple of features that are essential to make a great dictionary simply fantastic. Namely, the text is laid out to enhance readability and the Yiddish words are printed in a clear, dark font that makes it easy to differentiate the various letters. This layout makes the text much easier to navigate than some other dictionaries I've used in the past.

All these elements combined serve to make the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary one the best and most comprehensive Yiddish-English dictionaries currently available. It is a wonderful resource for students and an essential reference to anyone who uses Yiddish on a daily basis in either a personal or professional capacity!


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