Free Online German Translation
from Linguee

It's all context, context, context!*

Linguee is a free online German translation source and the natural next-step in the development of German-English translation services on the web.

Set up by two internet entrepreneurs in 2008, Linguee not only identifies German translations of words and phrases but also demonstrates how these terms are used in CONTEXT.

How does this free online German translation service work?

The idea is simple.
Linguee takes your chosen search term and trawls through bilingual German and English texts across the web.

It then brings up two lists: one of German texts including your search term, and the other of English texts which include an English translation of this term.

Why is this so good?

Not only is the range of bilingual sources vast, but you also get to see your term or phrase in a variety of contexts.

Linguee recognizes that searchers tend to look for phrases rather than single words and therefore the context in which your phrase appears becomes vital when deciding on the suitability of a particular translation.

When using free online German translation resources think about this……

Linguee will pull up everything.

Which means for every great translation out there – drawn from a reputable German-English dictionary / a professional translators’ forum / a well-translated text – you’ll also get some nonsense answers thrown up by machine translations, incorrect translations or “near-miss” translations.

So Linguee also invites visitors to judge the answers – each listing is accompanied by a rating of up to 3 stars.

If you have time and are confident in your linguistic abilities, you can judge the translations. You give them the thumbs up or thumbs down, and this effects their prominence when the term is called up the next time.

I think Linguee is great for……

rarer and odder terms or more technical terms, where the original translations are more likely to have been done by professionals.

Linguee draws on many EU and patent texts, so there should be good pickings for technical translators.

Just for interest, I compared a few terms from one of my clients’ glossaries to see what Linguee would bring up:

  • Freiformschmieden – Open die forging
    No doubts here, almost complete agreement between all the listed texts
  • Handelsrohre – Commercial piping / Commercial tubing
    Pipes and tubing are fairly interchangeable, according to these lists. A good example of where to check back with the client/the client’s past translations.
  • Kugelstrahlen - Shot-blasting
    No problems there.

Disclosure: If you buy from a link below I get a small commission. There is no extra charge to you. 

However, the following example suggests that Linguee might be not be so good for translations of more common terms.

It brings up so many choices making it hard to work out which is really best:

  • Mit freundlichen Grüßen  is a common sign-off used in German letters and emails. Linguee brings up several accepted English translations, including:
    kindest regards
    yours sincerely
    yours faithfully
    with kindest regards,  &
    best regards

In English, however, these phrases are used in slightly varying ways:

  • Letters tend to stick to
    Dear Sir / Yours faithfully
    Dear Mr Smith / Yours sincerely
    whereas regards / best regards / with kindest regards have a more informal tone and are much more commonly used in emails.

You'll need to decide for yourself which is most appropriate for your particular German translation.

So forget all those other German English dictionaries?


You should still have a classic German English dictionary on your desk, and use an online German dictionary such as LEO.

But Linguee is a valuable addition for cross-checking, for more technical terms, and for examining the context in which a phrase is used.

Free online German translation services such as Linguee are becoming the norm – and mobile. You can download the Linguee application to your iPhone or iPod Touch!

Give Linguee a try here.

Happy translating!

* Context is so important in translation that it's even reflected in translation humour. Here's perhaps the best known translation joke:

Q: How many translators does it take to change a lightbulb?

A: It depends on the context.

Got a better translation joke? I'd be delighted to hear it!


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Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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