french dictionary books and apps

9 Best French-English Dictionaries and Apps for French Learners in 2023

If you’re learning French, then you’ll need a go-to dictionary.

In 2023, there are tons of choices out there, from dictionary apps that you can easily download on your phone to classic print dictionaries.

It might be tempting to just use Google to look up unfamiliar French words, but a trusty, professionally edited dictionary will give you better translations (and save you from any extra searching).

Let’s look at the nine best dictionaries for French learners out there—whether print or digital.


French to English Dictionary

Best Comprehensive: “Collins-Robert French Dictionary”

Price: $65

Where to Find It: Amazon

Grab a pen, some paper and get ready for that surprisingly satisfying smell that you only find from books.

The Collins-Robert is pricey but it’s an incredibly comprehensive French-English dictionary. It has loads of contextual detail for each word, and has a reputation for being reliable for even the most serious of French learners.

One added bonus is that the Collins-Robert has a lot of sentences/phrases so you know that you’re getting the nuanced definition of a word, rather than just one core idea (like you’d find from Google Translate, for instance).

Best for Advanced Learners: “Oxford-Hachette Dictionary” 

Price: $28 to $55

Where to Find It: Amazon

If you’re already an advanced French learner and you’re planning to look up more complex or specialized vocabulary, then the Oxford-Hachette dictionary might well be for you. It has a whopping 900,000 words, including slang and acronyms that you’ll mainly hear in European French. In fact, it’s recommended for university students and translators.

Aside from the dictionary entries, it even includes example resumes and emails, plus important documents like rent contracts and bank statements, which are useful if you live in a French-speaking country.

Best for Daily Life: “Langenscheidt Pocket Dictionary French”

Price: $12

Where to Find It: Amazon

For a dictionary that focuses on everyday terms, you’ll want to have the Langenscheidt Pocket Dictionary around. It’s compact enough while still having at least 50,000 entries, and it includes both English to French and French to English translations.

If your French level is at B2 or below, it’ll likely cover most of the terms that you’re looking for, and you’ll be able to read a newspaper with it. It’s also the lightest print dictionary on this list, so you can even bring it with you while you’re traveling.

Best for Canadian French: “Merriam-Webster’s French-English Dictionary”

Price: $5

Where to Find It: Amazon

This print dictionary has a fairly unique feature: it covers both the French spoken in France and Canadian French.

Throughout the dictionary, you’ll see words marked with “Can,” which stands for Canadian French—these include pinotte (peanut) and depanneur (repairperson). If you’re living in or planning to go to Quebec, then this dictionary should be at the top of your list! 

It’s pretty hefty, with at least 80,000 vocabulary words and phrases, and you can look up either a French word or English word to find its translation. For reference, the dictionary includes verb conjugation and noun lessons too, plus French abbreviations.

French Dictionary App

Best for Beginners: Ascendo

Price: $8.99 

Where to Find It: iOS | Android

Though there are many French-English dictionary apps out there, Ascendo is one of the newer ones.

It also comes with some pretty neat features like a translator, an extensive phrasebook, and a verb conjugator (that last one is gold!). Basically, it’s the Swiss army knife of French-English dictionaries.

Ascendo also allows you to quiz yourself on vocabulary, which makes it perfect for beginners. Travelers and beginners alike are sure to find Ascendo’s offline audio pronunciation guide to be especially useful.

Best Multimedia Dictionary: FluentU 

Price: $29.99 per month 

Where to Find It: iOS | Android | Web

To remember a word effectively, you’ll need context. FluentU is a French immersion platform that provides this through a multimedia dictionary and authentic French videos.

Type a French word or expression into the search box, and you’ll automatically see the definition, audio, sample sentences and even video clips that use the term. You can even save words as flashcards for later review:

fluentu dictionary

For picking up new vocabulary, the platform also has hundreds of French videos that are taken from TV shows, movies, interviews, and more. Each video has dual-language interactive subtitles that are linked to the dictionary—hover over a French word, and its definition will pop up right away. 

Best for Slang and Regional Terms: WordReference

Price: Free

Where to Find It: iOSAndroid | Web

This is the app of the popular WordReference website, with the same recognizable purple color scheme we all know and love.

As a dictionary translation app, it’s simple, unfussy and effective. It’s great for reading and writing because it provides grammatical and culturally-based explanations. It also has a handy verb conjugator.

The app lets users access WordReference’s famous forums where learners (like you!) ask questions about word choice and sentence construction in particular situations, and native French speakers answer them.

Best for Idioms: Larousse French-English Dictionary

Price: $4.99

Where to Find It: iOS | Android | Web 

Larousse is a classic name in the French dictionary business. This app is great for learners of all levels, particularly those who would like to focus on their reading and writing because it provides access to a plethora of proverbs, sayings and idiomatic expressions.

Each entry includes links, which makes cross-referencing smooth and simple. The search history feature is useful because it allows you to see words you’ve already looked up. On top of that, the app works offline, except for its pronunciation guide, which requires an internet connection.

Best for Verb Conjugation: Collins French-English Dictionary

Price: $17.99

Where to Find It: iOS

The expression “you get what you pay for” comes to mind with the Collins app. Just like the print version, the app is worth every penny. It’s great for learners of all levels, and it covers a wide range of domain-specific vocabulary, with verb conjugations for both French and English.

This app also has the “Language in Use” supplement, which provides hundreds of examples of how to use vocabulary in real life, such as email and phone conversations.

A note: This dictionary uses British English, so certain words that are exclusively American will not be listed.

How to Use a Dictionary to Learn French

Getting the most out of a dictionary requires that you know what you’ll be using it for:

  • Reading — Reading is an awesome way for you to build your French vocabulary by seeing words in context. Try reading a sentence on your own first, then just look up words in a dictionary if you can’t figure out what they mean from context alone. 
  • Writing — French uses link words more often than English does, so deciding which one to use can be daunting for English speakers. A French dictionary can help you choose between cela dit (having said that) or à savoir (that is to say), for example.
  • Traveling — When traveling, dictionaries are useful for deciphering signs of all sorts and checking a word before you say it aloud. Apps with phrase guides are also great for travelers, as are pronunciation guides.
  • Business — If you’re learning French for work, a dictionary is great for looking up potentially confusing terminology like abbreviations. For example, a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) is a PDG (président-directeur général) in French. 

Once you’ve established your needs:

  • Actively keep track of new words. It’s easy to look up a word once, but much more difficult to remember it long-term. Make sure to write down the words you learn so you can review them frequently. Writing down words on scraps of paper or mini Post-its is not ideal, whereas flashcards are a great way to do this.
  • Focus on words that get repeated a lot. Don’t look up every word, but watch out for repetitions since they’re clues to important words for the specific French content you’re using. You should look up a word if it pops up multiple times and you’re unclear what it means. 
  • Review prepositions. Prepositions are pesky for all French learners. They often carry a wide variety of meanings and have few logical usage rules. For example, de can be translated as “of,” “by,” “for” or “from.” The cool thing is if you constantly look up prepositions, in a few short weeks they’ll just come naturally! 
  • Use it or lose it. When you learn a new word, make sure to integrate it into your word arsenal as a mot du jour (word of the day), mot de la semaine (word of the week) or mot du mois (word of the month). Challenge yourself to use new words every time the opportunity presents itself.

As you keep using a dictionary, over time, your writing will become richer, your listening comprehension will improve, and when you speak you’ll wow people with your fluency.

Should I Use a Print Dictionary or an App? 

These days, French dictionary apps are definitely the more popular choice. They’re easy to use and much more discreet than a print dictionary—all you need is your phone! The French language is also constantly changing, and with a quick update, dictionary apps can keep up with those changes.

Print dictionaries might seem more old-fashioned, but one less obvious benefit is they can actually get you to learn more. Looking for a word takes more effort, so your brain will be more motivated to retain the information. You also naturally see other words and expressions as you’re flipping through the pages, which can lead to you picking up more new vocabulary by accident.

What you choose is up to you—you could even pick both!


As you learn French, you’ll likely look up words too many times to count—and the right dictionary can make your learning journey much more convenient. 

Choose any of the top dictionaries above, and you’ll be well on your way to building vocabulary!

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