Small DE – EN law dictionaries / Kleine Rechtswörterbücher DE – EN

There are a number of small bidirectional German-English law dictionaries on the market. (Click on links to in the extended entry)

A commenter asked recently whether one would be useful for someone studying translation with law as their main subject. That depends what the student wants it for. If you want a dictionary to use in translation tests where dictionaries are allowed, it would be worth getting used to using the largest possible, Dietl or Romain. Doesn’t have to be the latest edition. The other dictionaries are all too small. But their price is popular! If you want something to supplement classes, a monolingual dictionary is worth considering.

Then there are interpreters who want a dictionary to carry with them to court. And German law students learning legal English. They all need something different.

But the first thing a legal translator needs is monolingual encyclopaedic works and textbooks.

To read a few superficial remarks about some of these dictionaries, see overleaf (as it were). Hueber Verlag, Taschenwörterbuch Recht, R. Lister /K. Veth, 2 volumes, 2002. About 9,000 terms EN>DE, about 8,000 DE>EN. Some useful diagrams on courts and police at the back, for Germany, UK and USA – identical in both volumes. Surprisingly good on criminal-law terms. A German lawyer working in England was the consultant on this dictionary.

Taschenwörterbuch Recht. Englisch – Deutsch

Verlag Vahlen, Köbler, Rechtsenglisch. I only have the first edition of 1996 – the seventh edition appeared in 2007. It has about 8,000 words DE>EN and about 10,000 EN>DE. It tends to have only one-word equivalents, so is more like a glossary. Has a short introduction to English law in German at the front, with recommendations for further reading. Köbler has done useful German law dictionaries. For a series of bilingual dictionaries in many languages, he drew up a list of German words, and these were reversed to create the EN>DE half – thus one might look up Schwippschwager, but also brother of the brother-in-law.


Cornelsen Verlag, Wörterbuch Recht, Walter Bachem / Dieter Hamblock. I have the first edition, 2005, which has about 27,000 entries each way. There is a second edition of 2006, which is a bit longer. It has some court diagrams and lists of legal abbreviations in English and German at the back.

Wörterbuch Recht: Wörterbuch Recht. Deutsch – Englisch / Englisch – Deutsch. Ca. 28.000 Einträge pro Sprachrichtung

Langenscheidt ALPMANN, Fachwörterbuch Kompakt Recht, Stuart Bugg / Heike Simon, 2006. Comes with or without a CD-ROM version. EN>DE about 10,400 terms and 22,000 translations, DE>EN abotu 12,500 terms and 24,000 translations. The dictionary doesn’t begin till page 207. At the front are three long introductions to UK, US and German law, each in two language versions. At the back are articles of association, a contract and a letter, also in both English and German. I agree with a colleague that I would not recommend these materials for students of translation, because even in the US introduction it is not clear which text is the original and which is the translation (translators should practise on texts where an author was expressing something directly, rather than trying to render what another author appeared to mean).

Langenscheidt Alpmann Fachwörterbuch Kompakt Recht, Englisch. Mit CD-ROM.

LexisNexis, Talking Law Dictionary, Thomas Lundmark, 2005 but the pronunciation CD 2007. On the pronunciation CD, quite well-known lawyers from the UK, USA, Germany and Austria pronounce words and you can see their brief bio and photo while you listen to them. There are 30,000 terms. It even contains the word Vorbefassung. I don’t think dictionaries need this, but it is often being sought on translators’ mailing lists.

Talking Law Dictionary. Multimediales zweisprachiges Rechtswörterbuch

There is one other legal dictionary that is very unpopular with students. It was a dictionary of legal English for learners of English as a foreign language, by Peter Collin. It is full of phrases that help you put words into sentences. Klett took it and had German words added as possible translations, and a German-English index. But it is not a DE>EN dictionary, just an EN>EN dictionary with some excellent supplementary German terms. Klett really shot themselves in the foot when they wrote Englisch-Deutsch Deutsch-Englisch on the cover. There must be people out there who read the cover of a dictionary and then buy it – see the reviews.

Klett: Pons Fachwörterbuch Recht, P.H. Collin, Sigrid Janssen, Anke Kornmüller, Rupert Livesey. My edition is 1998, but there is a 2005 one. Mine says it has about 10,000 keywords, but it has masses of examples in context. It’s more British than American. An excellent dictionary for Germans to carry around with them.

PONS Fachwörterbuch Recht Englisch – Deutsch / Deutsch – Englisch (PONS-Wörterbücher)

All these dictionaries tend to have some vocabulary that shouldn’t really be in a law dictionary, but I would recommend not getting too concerned about this. It would be nice to know what guided the choice of terms, however. Did the author intend to include scholarly terms, in both directions? British and US terms?

This is not a proper review. I checked some words, though not a representative sample:

cestui que trust: only in Lundmark
chambers, in two meanings: in all except Köbler
Rückabwicklung: only in Lundmark
Nacherfüllung: in Cornelsen and Langenscheidt ALPMANN

If you can find these dictionaries on the Kater Verlag site, you can click on Entscheidungshilfe and see sample pages.

2 thoughts on “Small DE – EN law dictionaries / Kleine Rechtswörterbücher DE – EN

  1. Here is a link to the decision (in German)
    It is a (final) procedural decision that merely says no one is entitled to apply for a guardian to be appointed for someone else. The decision does not give away that there was a chimpanzee involved (or rather: that a chimpanzee should have been involved according to the appellants), it just says:
    “Der Antragsteller beantragte die Bestellung eines Sachwalters f

    • Thank you. I have added a note to the entry to make it clear.
      I see the VGT site says: ‘Es ist erstaunlich wie sich die Gerichte um eine Entscheidung in der hier wesentlichen Frage dr

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