Digital dictionaries for translating archaic words and spellings

Posted: June 27, 2012 in Android, apps, arias, art song, choral, e-books, English, French, German, iPad, Italian, libretto, lieder, opera, studying, texts, translation, websites
Front cover of Queen Anna's New World of Words

Credit: Greg Lindahl

Following up on the topic of an earlier post, “Working with music texts, Part 2: Translate the text,” there are times when we need to translate archaic words or spellings that have fallen out of modern usage and are nowadays only encountered in a literary context such as poetry or libretti.  Fortunately, there are quite a few websites, apps, and e-books to help with deciphering these bits of antiquated language. Note that several of them are historic dictionaries in the original language, so depending on your level of fluency, you may want to have a translation reference or tool handy for translating the definitions.




N. B.: I’ve heard that for translating much of the German repertoire, one might have more success using a pre-WWII dictionary that pre-dates the spelling reforms of the mid- to late-20th century.


If you have any digital resources to add to this list, let me know!

This post was inspired, and much of the information gleaned, from this discussion thread in the archives of the New Forum for Classical Singers.  A hat-tip to the folks there who share their expertise.

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  1. […] Digital dictionaries for translating archaic words and spellings […]

  2. corriamtutti says:

    This is a wonderful compilation. Thank you! Are similar resources available for Russian, Czech, and Spanish, as well?

    • Tech4Singers says:

      I haven’t researched those since I haven’t had the opportunity to work on that repertoire yet, but I’ll blog if I find any in the future. In the meantime, try checking the Diction Police blog/podcast or Google Books, which has many public domain (and therefore old) foreign-language dictionaries. If any other readers can suggest related resources, please let me know!

  3. […] Digital dictionaries for translating archaic words and spellings […]

  4. This is fantastic! Saving me so much time! Thank you

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