The best German medical dictionaries for German translators
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I've trawled the translator forums and spoken to medical translators to find out which German medical dictionaries they use and recommend.
Unsurprisingly, the more specific your subject area, the fewer the dictionaries available and the more expensive they become. However, a recognized German medical dictionary is always your authoritative, final point of reference.
So, if you are planning to specialise in medical translation, you will certainly need to invest in at least one of these resources.
The Routledge-Langenscheidt German Dictionary of Medicine, by Dr Jürgen-Fritz Nöhring, is expensive but certainly
authoritative. Published in 1997, it comes in 2 volumes: Vol 1 is German to English (no details about number of entries), and Vol 2 English to German with 67,000 entries, with each volume running to almost 1,000 pages. Perhaps for the more serious medical translator.
You many only need one volume, depending on whether you translate into English, or into German – and don't forget you can also save money by buying secondhand.
The Peter Collin Dictionary of Medicine is significantly less expensive than the Routledge, and so may be a good place to start. It comes in a single volume, with 625 pages, with the first edition published in 1992.
Now, I have to admit to being a little confused here, as the Pons Fachwörterbuch Medizin is also edited by Peter Collin and seems to be the same length as the one above. This is the 1997 edition, and also comes in a single volume.
I assume this is case of same content, different publisher, and so would suggest buying either the Pons, or the Collin above, rather than both.
The Langenscheidt Wörterbuch German to English and English to German Concise Medical Dictionary (2007) gets rave reviews from buyers, but the majority seem to be practictioners who value being able to slip it into their pocket to have on hand as required.
Although it covers around 35,000 specialist terms relevant to clinical and practical medicine, drugs, diseases and symptoms, it may not be sufficiently extensive in scope for a specialist medical translator. However, it might be a good starting point.
Elsevier's Wörterbuch Medizin (2007), Ein Praxiswörterbuch mit englischen Definitionen der wichtigsten Stichwörter, is also well regarded, with reviews including this one from 2018: “Comprehensive listing from your arachnodactyly to your zygomatic arch...AND a list of German medical abbreviations. My translations will be much more complete thanks to this book.”
Includes 35,000 specialist terms in all fields of medicine, and is very reasonably priced. A 2013 edition is also available for Kindle.
Now this may just be the Goldlilocks option for a good German medical dictionary!
The second edition (2004) of the Springer Großwörterbuch Medicine - Deutsch Englisch / English German - comes in a single volume, is very reasonably priced (especially secondhand). It covers 53,000 German medical terms with 125,000 translations. At over 1,700 pages, it's a serious contender, and I notice it gets the thumbs up from a patent translator in the translator forums.
The Unseld Medizinisches Wörterbuch has been on the market for 50 years, so it is clearly a valued resource. This is the 12th edition.
In paperback form with over 750 pages, it covers 30,000 terms for doctors, dentists, vets, psychologists, pharmacists, biologists, chemists and physicists, as well as interpreters and those working in the medical field. English-German and German-English in a single volume.
Don't forget to write off your purchase as a business expense!
Nowadays, there are also many valuable German medical dictionary resources online – check out my recommended medical translation glossaries of German and English terminology, compiled by translators working in
And if you can recommend a good German medical dictionary then we'd be delighted to add it to the list. Just use the form below.
German Translation Tips & Resources