It’s never been easier to get a quick translation of an Italian word you don’t recognize. While being able to instantly look up an unknown term is great in a pinch, it’s not necessarily the best for someone trying to learn the language. Not only does relying on translators make it easier to avoid really understanding Italian, but also, the first results in a search engine will likely give you a translation with no context. To really dig into the language, you should consider a more detailed resource: Italian dictionaries.
We’re not suggesting you lug around a massive tome — though physical dictionaries offer many benefits — instead, we’re pointing you toward a few online resources that will help you out. We say “a few” because, like tools in a toolbox, each Italian dictionary serves a different need.
The Best Italian Dictionaries For Learners
Best Overall Italian Dictionary For Learners: WordReference
WordReference isn’t exclusively for Italian, but there’s a reason it’s been relied on by countless language learners over the years. It provides translations, as well as conjugations, example sentences and “compound forms” (phrases where the word appears). Another great feature of WordReference is their forum, where users discuss various Italian and English phrases to figure out how to translate them or explain them. This is helpful, because even the most complete dictionary might leave you with questions about word usage that a native speaker might be able to answer.
Best Dictionary App: Linguee
A good dictionary app is invaluable when you’re on the go, and Linguee’s design puts it ahead of many other options. The app quickly gives you results for possible translations, but also allows you to dive deeper into the word and how it’s used in a sentence. This gives it a leg up over instant translators, because you can more easily tell if the translation makes sense for what you’re trying to say. Plus, the app allows you to download dictionaries, so you can still use it even if you’re not able to connect to Wi-Fi.
Best Italian-Italian Dictionary: Treccani
Once you’ve started feeling a bit comfortable in your language learning journey, it might be time to switch from an English-Italian Dictionary to an Italian-Italian one. That way, you’re not constantly switching between two languages in your head. If you want to go to the most authoritative source, then you’ll want Treccani. Admittedly, Treccani’s website can be a bit overwhelming at first, but it’s filled with useful information on words, their histories and how they’re used.
Best Slang Dictionary: Slangopedia
The Italian language is filled with a rich diversity of vernacular and colloquial phrases, largely thanks to the variety of dialects spoken throughout the country. While official dictionaries are great, they’re very slow to adopt slang terms. Slangopedia, a crowdsourced online resource for Italian terms, makes up for that by collecting hundreds of words that are either new or being used in new ways. Admittedly, it’s a little outdated at this point — the last updates are from the middle of the 2010s — but it still presents an interesting assembly of vocabulary you might not see anywhere else.