One of the most useful Persian-English dictionaries for classical and literary Persian is by Francis Joseph Steingass (Routledge, 1892), which has been converted to text and placed in a searchable database at the University of Chicago. With its rich array of meanings, idioms, and compound verbs, Steingass is a good first stop when looking up a new word. However, the search engine has a numDber of quirks you need to know about.
- If you are searching for a word with ی and it’s not coming up, try using the Arabic ي.
- Any word that ends with ک (e.g. سنگک) must be written with the Arabic ك (e.g. سنگك).
- Words that end with tā marbuta (ة) in Arabic must usually be written so in Persian as well (e.g. ولایة instead of ولایت).
- Familiarize yourself with Steingass’s transliteration system, which reflects the older pronunciation of Persian. The short vowels are written a, i, and u (as in Arabic); the ending ـه (e.g. نامه) is written -a (nāma); diphthongs are ai, au, iy, and uy; the majhūl vowels ē and ō are preserved (e.g. شیر sher “lion”, روز roz “day”); and the preposition به / بـ is spelled ba.
- Note that the order of headwords follows the English alphabet: when you search for گرد you will first find gard and its related verbs and idioms, followed by gird and then gurd.
- For compound verbs and idioms, you’ll usually want to work with the first part of the sequence. Searching in transliteration can help you. Say you find the phrase سر ببال دزدیدن: first go to the headword سر and then search in the browser for
duzdīdan(note that Chrome does not care about diacritics, which is helpful); you fill find “sar ba-bāl duzdīdan, To refuse, to disobey, to oppose”.