English - Greek Translation Services, Greek Dictionaries, Machine Translation
Translatum - The  Greek Translation Vortal
Translatum.gr - Greek Translation
Greek Translation Services
 Ask a terminology question in the forum!
Sitemap | News | Tell a friend | RSS
Translatum Greek Translation Forum
Our page on facebookFollow us on twitterRSS feed

Greek translation Greek dictionaries Translatum Journal  
Panagiotis E. Tsampounaras

On account of the limited possibilities of the local market, it is only natural that major publishing firms are reluctant to take the risk of spending money and energy on groundwork, compilation and circulation of bilingual dictionaries. Accordingly, the writing of bilingual dictionaries in Greece is done in a more or less haphazard way, and the lexicographers and editors undertaking or employed for this task are often inadequately qualified, trained, guided and supervised. In most cases the result is the production of bilingual dictionaries that leave much to be desired. 

In the following, an attempt will be made to discuss the present situation in Greece, with reference to the synchronic, general or commercial, bilingual (L1-L2) and/or bidirectional (L1-L2-L1) dictionaries.


The bilingual dictionaries vary as to the range or extent to which they cover the entire lexical units of a language. They also vary as to their perspective and as to their presentation.

One could say that there are five main categories of bilingual dictionaries:

          1. Unabridged (450,000 - 600,000 entries),
          2. Intermediate or Semi-Abridged (250,000 - 300,000 entries),
          3. College (150,000 - 170,000 entries),
          4. Desk (60,000 - 100,000 entries), and
          5. Paperback or Pocket (40,000 - 60,000 entries).

The first three types of bilingual dictionaries lie far beyond the ambitions and abilities of Greek publishers and there is no point in discussing them even as a remote possibility.

The bilingual dictionaries circulating in Greece belong to the Desk and Pocket categories, and in nine times out of ten, the second language is English. In their majority, they are compiled, edited, proofread and produced by one and the same person or by a very small team of people. Therefore, it is not surprising that very little consideration, if any, has been given to fundamentals such as:


The bilingual dictionary is like an engineering feat. It must first be conceived and then written. It has first to be designed and then constructed. As a rule, the organized planning of a bilingual dictionary covers approximately 30% of the schedule, writing at least 50% and the production the remainder. In Greece, planning is typically restricted to the content, the budget and sometimes, the staff.

Content and Sources

In Greece, the customary method for planning the lexicon is the selection of one or more dictionaries similar to the one that the planner has in mind. With the appropriate adjustments to suit the intended content, the source is used as a guide for the contributing editors. It is no secret that all commercial dictionaries are based to some extent on pre-existing works.

Of course, luxuries such as "citation files" (παραθεματολόγιο), i.e. a collection of quotations of actual usage selected to serve as a basis for constructing definitions or for providing other semantic or formal information, are undreamed of.


On account of the limited number of persons involved, there is a general idea or conjecture as to how the dictionary is going to be put together, by whom and when. The elements of design, human resources and schedule are considered negligible.

In the following an attempt will be made to list some of the conspicuously missing fundamental requirements for an acceptable level of efficiency in the implementation.

Principles- The Intended user

It is true that if the dictionary is made to suit the purposes of either the native-speaker or the learner, it may turn out to be unsatisfactory for both categories of users. So while catering to essential needs of the intended user, the dictionary must be designed to cover as best as possible the meanings of the lexical units and the functional variety thereof to serve the purposes of both types of users, but with emphasis on the needs of the intended reader.

Policy - Style Chart

The next step that is the compilation of a body of instructions for, the "Style Chart". To ensure an acceptable level of conformity, this guide must cover as a minimum and in detail the following points:

                                    STYLE CHART


when to include

Geographic Entries

if and which to include

Guidance on Allophonic Variants

when to include

Illustrative Phrases and Sentences

when to include

Insulting/Offensive Terms

when to include

Irregular Words

when to include, when to explain


where to use


which and when to use


when to include


when to include

Numbering of Definitions

order of priority


when to include or use

Polysemous Entries

order of definition


range of treatment

Phrasal Run-on Derivatives

when to include


if and when to include






Robert Ilson says that: "The dictionary is a recognized institution, but lexicography has yet to become a recognized profession". If this is or was the situation in countries with such a long tradition in lexicography, one can easily imagine what the circumstances are in Greece where the lexicographer is nothing more than a term vaguely describing a person who now and then dabbles in the writing of dictionaries.


The success of the dictionary will largely depend on the selection of those who are going to contribute as bilingual lexicographers (known also as "generalists"), experts ("specialists") and editors. Unfortunately, even in countries with extensive activities in lexicography, only a small number of institutions offer advanced or graduate courses in this field. Finding qualified bilingual lexicographers in Greece is virtually impossible.


Approximately 40% of the content of a general-purpose dictionary represent scientific or technical terminology. For commercial reasons and in order to ensure an acceptable level of prestige, the specialists, i.e. the contributing experts and consultants should be chosen among those who have acquired a reputation in their profession.

Contributor's Language

For an acceptable and reliable coverage of collocations and connotations, the bilingual lexicographer's native language should be the target language.


The selection of proofreaders is an extremely important determinant, especially in bilingual dictionaries. In principle, the proofreader should never be the writer of the galley he/she is correcting. Ideally, each of the required three successive galley proofs should be proofread separately by an equal number of senior editors.


In the field of writing dictionaries, it is on very rare occasions that things go as planned. Even when one compiles such a work by oneself and sets one’s own norms of production, nine times out of ten one discovers to one’s dismay that things do not turn out as expected.


1. Headword or Entry Term


If there is no "word-list selection" (λημματολόγιο) prepared by the chief editor or senior editors, the bilingual lexicographer himself will have first to decide what headword to include, and only then to think about what to say on it or how to say it.


Taking for granted that the user knows nothing about the headword, the safest way would be to alphabetize all alternative spellings with cross-reference to the entry that contains the full translation or definition.


Entries (hyphenated or as a solid compound) must actually appear in article in the A-Z section of the dictionary and they should indicate printed form (capitalized or italicized).

For reasons of uniformity, the style-chart should specify if entries that belong to two or more classes of words should be clustered or listed separately and in what sequence, i.e. verb, noun, adjective, adverb, etc. Clustering is a technique favoured mainly in dictionaries published in the UK and in about half of the bilingual dictionaries produced in Greece in the recent years. Under this system, derivatives, compounds, idioms and other multiple lexical units are embedded within a consolidated paragraph that is alphabetized under a term from which they were derived or with which they share a common element.

Spelling, Syllabication and Stress Pattern

When so required, the entries should indicate preferred and alternative spelling (e.g., "labour-labor", "απρόσεκτος-απρόσεχτος"). Syllabication and stress pattern are considered an asset adding to the prestige of the bilingual dictionary, especially if it is intended for learners.


© Translatum.gr 2001-2016. All rights Reserved