When I was a kid, my dad never encouraged me to read story books.
Nor did he send me to a library.
Instead, he did something else.
On Sunday afternoons, he’d sit with me and a big fat dictionary that was at least half a century old.
Then he’d open up the dictionary and teach me new words.
As I grew up, he encouraged me to check the dictionary every time I came across a word or phrase I didn’t understand.
The habit has stuck and now I swear by it.
You always need a good dictionary by your side, whether it’s a website, a dictionary app on your phone or a physical book on your shelf.
This is especially true for business English learners—there are so many complicated terms, abbreviations and expressions to know and a quality dictionary is your only hope to master them!
In this post, we’ll show you 10 great business English dictionaries for all situations.
They’ll help you learn any new word you encounter and boost your business English confidence.
Should You Use a Physical or Online Dictionary?
My answer: do both.
Always make sure you have quick access to an online dictionary or have a dictionary app installed on your phone. A digital dictionary is great for answering quick vocabulary questions, no matter where you are.
But also make sure you invest in a quality business English dictionary book. You can keep this in your office space or at home. Physical dictionaries tend to contain more information (like the history of words, lots of example sentences, etc.) so they’re great for focused vocabulary study.
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How to Make the Most of a Business English Dictionary
A dictionary isn’t just a reference book. There are plenty of other innovative uses for it:
- Every morning you can randomly pick a page number and learn one to three words listed on that particular page.
- When you’re looking for a word’s definition, you can make it a habit to also memorize the spelling, pronunciation, plurals and uses of that particular word.
- You could play English word games like Scrabble and use the dictionary to find some obscure terms.
If you enjoy creative vocabulary exercises, there’s an awesome interactive tool you can use alongside your dictionary: FluentU. This app helps you build your vocabulary through authentic videos.
In FluentU’s English program, you can watch real-world dialogues and situations that can apply to many industries (including medicine, finance, sales and much more). Each video comes with interactive captions—just click any word and you’ll get an instant definition and pronunciation. Flashcards and exercises will make sure you remember what you’ve learned.
Try looking up FluentU words in your business English dictionary, or listen for words you’ve already looked up. You can even make your own list of words into a flashcard set, and FluentU will find videos that contain those words. It’s an awesome way to improve your vocabulary while hearing English the way native speakers really use it!
10 Top Business English Dictionaries for Dedicated Learners
There are tons of specialized business English dictionaries, so you may be overwhelmed by choices. That’s where I come in. I’ve compiled a list of the best business English dictionaries out there.
This list should help you narrow down your choices based on your needs, budget and preferences.
Best Physical Dictionaries
This is a paperback dictionary containing over 35,000 entries and is ideal for students of business English.
At 958 pages and 2.1 pounds, this is the reference book you should keep at your desk.
You’ll learn financial and marketing terms, common abbreviations from the business world, workplace expressions and much more. According to customer reviews, there’s even a section devoted to office situations such as doing interviews or writing formal letters.
A lighter paperback with 616 pages, this one is best suited to learners in the early stages of speaking and writing business English.
There are detailed diagrams and illustrations to explain important concepts, as well as sections on confusing words and vocabulary improvement.
This deal also comes with a CD with learning exercises to ace those important exams.
This dictionary has over 6,500 entries including important expressions and idioms. The entries are illustrated with sample sentences.
This dictionary will be specifically useful for those interested in negotiation and finance. The goal is to improve your communication about money… so you can make more!
Each entry also shows you similar words, so you can easily find synonyms. There’s even a Kindle edition for the tech-savvy readers.
You can’t go wrong with this one. In my experience, Longman’s line of dictionaries are best suited to beginners. Not only do they cover all the important technical terms, they also explain them in an extremely easy-to-understand fashion.
This one contains over 20,000 entries with examples from authentic business-focused resources such as the Wall Street Journal. You’ll learn about both American and British English terms.
This dictionary will be specifically useful for those in the management field. It covers many terms that are important to running an organization, as well as marketing, business strategy and legal terms.
The sixth edition, published in 2016, contains over 7,100 entries in 656 pages—so it’s a pretty handy reference book to supplement your other learning resources. It also comes in a Kindle version.
Best Online Dictionaries
If you want to turn your phone or laptop into an efficient business English learning device, keep these sites bookmarked or download the apps listed below.
If you’ve ever Googled a business term, chances are the first or second result directed you to this site.
This site is a goldmine. It contains detailed explanations for all terms along with useful example sentences. There are links to relevant articles and nifty features like “term of the day.”
The Barrons Dictionary indexes more than 20,000 terms related to business. You can quickly search for words alphabetically from the menu at the top of the page.
It’s great for quick references and checking the exact definition of a word. Important abbreviations, numbers and internet terms are also included.
This is a free app with over 7,000 entries related to business and management. Words are listed alphabetically and it’s easy to search for a specific term.
There are even links to tutorials and videos on YouTube to make learning both fun and interesting.
Glossary of Terms to Keep Bookmarked
These aren’t technically dictionaries, but they basically work like dictionaries. Glossaries are lists of words related to a particular field (in this case, business English). Use them to find a specific word or browse in your spare time.
This glossary from the Guardian newspaper contains an A to Z list of finance and economics terms.
Pick a specific word that piques your curiosity and start learning!
On this site you won’t get normal definitions—instead, you’ll find a list of synonyms for any word you look up.
So the next time you catch yourself using the same word repeatedly while writing a letter or a memo, head over to this site and find an alternative for it.
Once you’ve bookmarked dictionary sites or bought a dictionary to be delivered to your doorstep, don’t stop there. Make a point to actively use it. Set goals for yourself. Try opening it at least once a day to learn something new.
And if you’re ever in a situation where you don’t have access to a dictionary online or offline, make a note of unfamiliar terms/phrases and look them up at the earliest chance you get. Cultivate curiosity, an open mind and persistence and you’ll be on the right track. Happy learning!
Archita Mittra is a freelance writer, artist, educator and a self-taught Italian speaker. Feel free to contact her on LinkedIn for freelancing inquiries.
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