Category Archives: Arabic/English Dictionaries

Hans Wehr tips II

If you come across a word you need to look up that has many letters, here’s a tip that might help you look it up in Hans Wehr.

If you see a taa, noon, or alif inside of the word, these could be a letter of increase that indicates the verb/word is based upon a verb of a verb form other than the first one (I):

a taa inside may indicate the verb is on scale VIII (if-taa-ein-laa)

a noon inside may indicate the verb is on scale VII (in-faa-ein-laam)

an alif inside may indicate the verb is on scale III (faa-aa-ein-laam)

(where faa stands for the first root, ein stands for the second root and laam stands for the third root

An alif-seen-taa together in the word probably indicates that the verb is on scale X).

This information is handy in two ways:

1. If you know the scale the verb or the derivative is on, it can help you determine the meaning better

2. It can help you pick out the root easier, insha Allah. Take out an interior taa, or noon, or alif and see if you can find the root then.  Sometimes the taa, noon, or alif are indeed part of the root and sometimes they are not.

Example: the word mush-ta-‘i-lah which consists of a meem-sheen-taa-ein-lam-taa marbutah.

This is a word on scale VIII and so the taa is a letter of increase.  The meem, from an earlier tip, indicates that the word is a derivative and so you are left with sheen, ein, lam, and then the taa marbutah. The taa marbutah is used on the end of words and is not a root. So we guess that the root is sheen, ein, lam. So you look this up and then you look for the whole word, mush-ta-‘i-lah and you see that it means ablaze, burning.  You also know that it is on scale VIII and you can see how the meaning of the verb matches the meaning of this derivative, mush-ta-ilah.

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Posted by on September 25, 2008 in Arabic/English Dictionaries


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Tips for Using Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary

Hans Wehr is my favorite Arabic-English dictionary to use.  Some find it difficult to use, but with practice using it, it is very powerful (in my opinion).

I wanted to share some tips that made its usage easy for me.

Before I get into my tips, I thought this post on learning Arabic on your own had a neat paragraph on Hans Wehr as well as learning Arabic in general.

A little background (real little)

Hans Wehr is arranged alphabetically by roots instead of the words themselves (If you want words arranged alphabetically,you might try the Mawrid dictionary). I think this arrangement of Hans Wehr as opposed to an alphabetical arrangement by words helped me get a better feel for the Arabic language then if I just looked up the words alphabetically.

 Looking Up Words

1. Look up by the roots:

So you have come across an Arabic a word that you don’t know the meaning of. To look it up in Hans Wehr, you need to determine the root of the word.  Most often, this consists of three root letters but can sometimes be four. 

(Side note: One thing that I did in the past was to read the Hans Wehr from cover to cover completely, two times. As I read through it, I jotted down roots that I thought would be useful and used a lot). I think that really  helped me get acquainted with the dictionary.  I tell my kids I did a “Malcolm X.”  He read through the English dictionary completely.  Its time consuming, but you can do it in little parts, a page here and there and I think it really helps).


Back on track…. it may seem difficult to pick out the roots but it gets easier with practice, insha Allah.  One tip I have is that if you see a meem in the word, cover it up and see what you have left.  If you can find three root letters (or two, the latter with a shaddah), try those to look up. A lot of the time, meem is used to make derivative words. If you can’t find three root letters, then the meem is probably one of the roots. This saves me a LOT of time.

2. If looking up verbs, don’t automatically take the first one listed. In Arabic you have the root verb and then you have other verbs based upon that (usually three letter) root.  In Hans Wehr, the forms after form I are given by Roman numerals.  I used to make the mistake of taking the first one because I didn’t understand about the other forms.  Insha Allah, I’ll post later listing the main verb forms that you will find in Hans Wehr, what they look like.  Until you learn the forms you will probably want to have a handy chart of them handy.  There are printables with the verb forms shown from under downloads,

You’ll probably want to also check out the other Arabic resoures on that page that that download is on: if you haven’t already.

3. When looking up a verb, see if there are any harf such as fee, ilaa, ‘alaa, min, etc behind it.  Depending upon the harf behind it, if any, the meaning can be different. For example, thaal, haa, baa (thahaba) can mean “to go” but if you put a harf such as ilaa it can mean “to slip the mind.” So look for any harf behind it (though they might not be directly behind) as well as use context clues.

4. Is the word a verb or noun (fi’l or ism)?

-Nouns can be preceded by the article (al)

-Nouns come after “harfs” such as ilaa, min, etc.

-Verbs (mudaari’-present tense) have subject markers (harf ul mudaari) in front telling you who/what is performing the action (the letter yaa, or taa, or alif, or noon.  Maadi verbs (past tense) have subject markers after (such as taa with a dammah, noon-alif, etc).

Being able to pick these out can help you find the root letters more quickly, insha Allah. 

How the Hans Wehr entries are arranged.

After the root (listed in Arabic), you will find the transliterated version of the word. After that, you will see an “a”, “i”, or “u” by itself. This tells you what goes on the second root in conjugation. Example; under kaa-taa-baa, you will see a “u” this tells you that for the third person, masculine, you will get: yaktUbu for he is writing.

After that, you will find the masdar (verbal noun) for that form I verb.  After usually long definitions, youl will find other words listed which contain the root, but with other letters. These are derivatives such as the as the masdar, fa’il, etc.

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Posted by on September 19, 2008 in Arabic/English Dictionaries


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