Why do we need Sanskrit dictionaries?

 As in any language, a Sanskrit dictionary serves as a handy tool for the learning process. In the case of Sanskrit, the dictionary proves to be particularly helpful because learning the Sanskrit language has a steep learning curve. To be precise, a Sanskrit dictionary helps Sanskrit learners learn not only the meanings of words but the various ways a word can be used. In other words, a Sanskrit dictionary is an aid for Sanskrit enthusiasts to master this language.

 Is there any relevance to learning Sanskrit?

You may be questioning the relevance of learning this 3500-year-old language because you believe that it is primarily used for creating religious scriptures of Hinduism, Buddhism and even Jainism.


While this may not appeal to all, you may be stunned to know that Sanskrit is the most scientific language. Created by the famous grammarian Panini, the beauty of this language lies in the fact that it helps to express scientific ideas with extreme accuracy, logic, and sophistication. Interestingly, therefore, this is the language most suited for computers. Hence, Sanskrit is the future language of India,

 If that motivates you to start learning this language, let me now share with you a list top 20 Sanskrit dictionaries that can simplify your learning process.

Sanskrit Dictionaries

Studies reveal that the history of the Sanskrit dictionary is even older than Sanskrit grammar. Unfortunately, however many of the best works in this space have been lost. Amongst the available works, let us now explore the ones that top the chart:

 Sanskrit to Sanskrit Dictionaries:

1. Vachaspatya

Compiled by Taranatha Tarkavachaspati, this is a comprehensive Sanskrit dictionary of 5442 pages that has been widely acclaimed not only in India but also across England and Europe. The edition in which the author added Panini’s grammar coupled with his commentary, was published in 1863 with the support of the Government of Bengal on the recommendation of Mr E. B. Cowell. 

This lexicon stands out amongst others because it contains explanations of terms in the Tantras, Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Law. This explanation proves to be a very helpful guide for both Hindu and European scholars.

You will find this book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Chowkhamba-Sanskrit-VAACHASPATYAM-Comprehensive-Dictionary/dp/B07CVBKLL7

2. Sabda Kalpadruma

Another extensive Sanskrit lexicon, Sabda Kalpadruma, was compiled by Raja Radha Kanta Deb and edited by Karunasindhu Vidyanidhi. It took him about 40 years to complete the compilation with the final volume along with the Annexure published in 1858.

The Sanskrit word kalpadruma means the omnipotent tree or the tree that fulfils all desires. True to its name, this book is claimed to contain almost all words and topics of the Sanskrit language.

The unique feature that makes it a superhit amongst Sanskrit students and teachers worldwide is the fact that it contains the meaning, origin and application of each Sanskrit word. Interestingly, the entire dictionary is written in Sanskrit pose but oriented in Bangla script.

 This book is available on Amazon at: https://www.amazon.in/Sabdakalpadruma-Encyclopaedic-Dictionary-Sanskrit-Words/dp/9383721898

3. Amarkosha

The Amarakosha is the oldest Sanskrit dictionary composed by the renowned Indian scholar Amarasimha before the 6th century AD. This book is also known as Trikanda because it is divided into three parts or kandas. Each kanda is further subdivided into sections called vargas. Yet another name of this book is Nāmliñgānuśāsana, which means a book of vocables and their genders.

Important to note that although many Sanskrit dictionaries have been written over the years, this thesaurus remains a work of undisputed authority on Sanskrit.

You can buy this book from Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Namalinganusasana-Amarakosha-Amarasimha-Amarakoshodghatana-Kshirasvamin/dp/128982908X

4. Kośakalpataru

Composed by Visvanatha in the seventeenth century, this is the most prominent lexicon worth mentioning. It is one of the largest pieces of work, containing more than 500 verses. The rich collection of synonyms and homonyms makes this dictionary a very valuable tool for Sanskrit learners.

 Moreover, the section on synonyms is further divided and subdivided into kandas and vargas. The homonyms portion is arranged according to the number of letters under each head. This greatly aids the learning and search process of readers. The book also contains two more sections, one covering the genders of vocables and the other dealing with indeclinables, or words that have no inflections.

You can get this book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kosakalpataru-Visvanatha-Sanskrit-Grammar-Rare/dp/B01M213GTF

 Sanskrit to English Dictionaries:

5. A Dictionary in Sanskrit and English: H. H. Wilson

This is the first-ever version of the Sanskrit-to-English dictionary. It is important to note that H H Wilson, in this book provides a supplement, appendices on grammar along with an index – all of which have proved to be very effective tools for Sanskrit enthusiasts,

Quite understandably, therefore, this dictionary has been cited as the most helpful guide by most of the colonial and leftist historians in India to support their interpretation of Hinduism.

This book is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Dictionary-Sanskrit-English-H-Wilson/dp/1230021043

6. A Dictionary in Sanskrit and English: Rev. W. Yates

This is an abridged version of Wilson’s dictionary published in 1846 in Calcutta for the benefit of Indian students in schools and colleges. Being a teacher himself, Yates realized that Wilson’s dictionary was not within the means of the average student. In other words, while teaching he realized the need for a dictionary that the average Indian student can afford. Hence, he created this abridged version without compromising on the size of the type and number of words used.

Amazon brings this book to you: https://www.amazon.com/Dictionary-Sanscrit-English-LATE-YATES/dp/1149809094

7. Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Sir Monier Williams

This Sanskrit lexicon compiled by Sir Monier Monier-Williams is a significant contribution to Sanskrit learners. One feature of this book worth praising is that it uses the modern technique of listing the words in alphabetical order. This facilitates the search process. The chief editor has himself compiled a significant section after an exhaustive study of the poetic and all other major works in Sanskrit.

You can buy this book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Sanskrit-English-Dictionary-Monier-Williams/dp/8120831055

8. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Theodore Benfey

Published in London in the year 1866, Theodor Benfey’s Sanskrit-English Dictionary stands out because of the references it provides to the best works of eminent Sanskrit authors. Some of the references worth mentioning are Lassen’s Anthology, sections from Johnson’s Mahabharata, Bopp’s Nala, etc. Interestingly, this lexicon also includes references to the great texts of Hitopodesa, Panchatantra, and others. These references serve as powerful tools for learners.

 Another interesting feature of this dictionary containing words written in Devnāgari script without the use of the accent mark is that proverbs are listed in alphabetical order under simple verbs. The book contains the etymology of each word, which further promotes the learning process of the reader.

9. The Concise Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Vasudev Govind Apte

The need for an excellent Sanskrit–English dictionary that is reasonably sized and priced has been long felt by Sanskrit learners. This dictionary by V G Apte exactly fits this requirement. It skillfully avoids the bulkiness of characterizing other dictionaries without compromising on its usefulness.

The author has achieved this dual purpose by avoiding the infrequently used Sanskrit words as well as their technicalities. Moreover, this lexicon intelligently excludes words that can be easily seen as simple derivatives of some other words.

Overall, true to its name, this concise dictionary is an extremely effective tool for Sanskrit learners.

You can buy this book from Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Books-Govind-Apte/s?rh=n%3A976389031%2Cp_27%3AGovind+Apte

10. A Sanskrit – English Dictionary: Carl Cappeller

Compiled by Cappeller in 1891, this dictionary is the English version of the Peterburger Worterbuch, published at Strassburg, France. It has a rich repository of over 50K words, including Vedic words. The root form of each word is given below each word in their stem forms along with the prefixes listed under the simple root arranged in alphabetical order. This arrangement makes it easy for the Sanskrit student to know about each term in its entirety.

 Get it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Sanskrit-English-Dictionary-Petersburg-Collection-Linguistics/dp/1108007309

11. The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Vaman Shivram Apte

Particularly designed for students in schools and colleges, this is a basic dictionary containing words from the Post-Vedic literature. Although it excludes the Vedic words, it includes the fundamental terms of Grammar, Nyaya, Law, Medicine etc.

To aid students, this lexicon explains the important technical terms with quotations in Sanskrit, as necessary.

The book also adds three Appendices at the end. The first is on Sanskrit prosody. The second Appendix contains the dates and writings of some famous Sanskrit authors. The last Appendix lists some of the important names of the ancient Geography of India with identifications on the modern map.

12. A Practical Sanskrit Dictionary: Arthur Anthony MacDonell

Written by Arthur Anthony Macdonell this Sanskrit dictionary is an extremely powerful practical aid for Sanskrit learners. Its power lies in the enormous volume of words – nearly double that of other contemporary works.

More importantly, this book is rich with transliteration, accentuation, and etymological analysis of the words – the first of its kind. This means this book can be readily used by philologists unaware of a single letter of the Devanagari script.  The etymological analysis of the words helps learners understand the origin of the words, very effective in remembering the word and its usage for a long time.

Additionally, one helpful feature of Macdonell’s book, which makes it unique, is the information provided regarding the literary period of the words along with the frequency or rarity of their occurrence. This proves useful for both students and scholars of Sanskrit.

This book is available with Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Practical-Sanskrit-Dictionary-Transliteration-Accentuation/dp/8120820002

 Sanskrit to Hindi dictionary:

13. Sanskrit-Shabdarth Kaustubh: Dwarakaprasad Sharma

This dictionary is just the right tool for those Sanskrit students who are strong in Hindi but not so conversant in English. Writing with such students in mind, the author has included the basic vocabulary of Sanskrit words, leaving out the ones that are rarely used. As a result, this book proves to be very handy for average students in schools and colleges. The reasonable size of the book also ensures that it is moderately priced, thereby making it easily accessible to students with limited means.

 Sanskrit to German dictionary:

14. Sanskrit-Worterbuch

Composed by Otto Bohtlingk and Rudolfph Roth over the period 1852-75, this is a remarkable contribution to the field of Sanskrit lexicography. The feature that sets this book apart is that even though the headword is written in Devanagari script, it gives Indo-Aryan cognates.

Popularly known as the St.Petersburg Dictionary, this book in seven volumes covers almost the entire range of Sanskrit literature available during the time.

What makes this book a work of immense historical significance is that the rich collection of around 9500 words cites several literary works on a wide variety of topics. These topics cover subjects like Art, History, Astrology, Medicine etc.

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Sanskrit-Worterbuch-Vol-1-7/dp/8120807243

 English to Sanskrit Dictionaries:

15. A Practical English-Sanskrit Dictionary: Anundoram Borooah

The author Anundoram Borooah wrote this book at a time when the existing ones had some limitations. In other words, contemporary learners were struggling to find a handy English-to-Sanskrit dictionary. This book by Anundoram addresses this challenge, and is, hence, considered the second-best lexicon close on the heels of Monier-William’s work.

Quite understandably, therefore, Anundoram’s dictionary is widely acclaimed not only by great Sanskrit scholars but also highly appreciated by the German Sanskrit scholar, Max Muller.

16. The Student’s English-Sanskrit Dictionary: Vaman Shivram Apte

This book is an invaluable contribution to furthering the popularity of Sanskrit amongst foreign students. This is because, as evident from the name, this lexicon has been particularly written for English-knowing readers who are interested in studying classical as well as modern Sanskrit.

The most interesting feature of this book is the inclusion of words covering the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata, Puranas and Upapuranas, Smriti and Niti literature, various branches of Poetry, Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, Botany, Music along with other scientific and technical fields of learning. In other words, this lexicon houses all words of post-Vedic literature.

More importantly, the book contains quotations and references to the unusual words that appear in books used by students in Indian and foreign universities.

Finally, the book also provides the meaning of important technical terms used in different branches of Sanskrit learning.

Overall, through this work, Apte has strived to provide all the relevant information handy to foreign students keen to learn Sanskrit.

Readily available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.in/Students-English-Sanskrit-Dictionary-V-S-Apte/dp/8120802993

 We have now listed the top 15 Sanskrit dictionaries whose printed versions are available in India for students and scholars of Sanskrit.

Online Sanskrit Dictionaries:

While most printed books are easily available on Amazon, it is important to note that the popularity of online Sanskrit dictionaries is steadily rising. The most important reason behind this burgeoning demand is the ease of search of any word not only within one digital book but across multiple books within an instant.

Some of the best online Sanskrit dictionaries are listed below:

17. Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon

This online Sanskrit dictionary allows you to search words from Monier William’s Sanskrit Dictionary along with selected words from Capellar Sanskrit dictionary, Tamil, and Pahlavi dictionaries. Interestingly, you can search with Sanskrit, Tamil, Pahlavi, or English words.

In case you want to search only Sanskrit words with English meanings, you can use the Monier Williams Online Sanskrit English Dictionary by accessing the link: http://members.ams.chello.nl/l.bontes/

18. Mudgala kosha: Ajit Krishnan

This is another excellent searchable compilation of several Sanskrit dictionaries including Monier William’s and Apte’s works and some additional grammar utilities. Overall, an excellent tool for learning, easy and quick to use. The search base even includes scanned images of books and software including mobile applications for Sanskrit dictionaries. These applications are available at http://www.aupasana.com/stardict along with instructions to install them on your system for ready reference.

19. SanDic – Sanskrit-English Dictionary

Prepared by Artem Novikov, SanDic is an electronic compilation of three dictionaries. These include the Sanskrit to English dictionaries by V S Apte, Monier Williams, and Macdonell. All the files of these dictionaries are available at//sourceforge.net/projects/sandic/files.

20. Dhatu – Patha

This Sanskrit-English dictionary is a collection of verbal roots along with the final forms of the words. Compiled by Mandala Pati dasa (Petrovsky Vladislav), this dictionary allows you to search using Devanagari and English terms. The searchable database is available at http://sourceforge.net/projects/dhatu-patha/files.

Ajit Krishnan has developed a Mobile application using the component dictionaries. The Application is available at http://www.aupasana.com/stardict.

21. Halayudha Kosha

This is a Sanskrit-to-Sanskrit dictionary and can be downloaded in three Zip files of dictionaries compiled by Apte, Monier Williams, and Dhatupatha. Users can access this online resource at: http://www.scribd.com/collections/3567269/Halayudha-Kosha

22. Sanskrit Kosha Samucchaya

This is yet another searchable online Sanskrit dictionary available at http://www.andhrabharati.com/dictionary/sanskrit/index.php, which includes meanings of words covered in a group of Sanskrit-Sanskrit, Sanskrit-English, and English-Sanskrit dictionaries.

Wrapping Up

This narrative aims to share with you the enormous work that has happened over the years in the sphere of Sanskrit dictionary compilation activities. True to the richness of this ancient language, the commendable work done by renowned scholars has generated a valuable treasure of Sanskrit lexicography.

While these well-crafted creations have left an everlasting impression and added to the wealth of Sanskrit literature, their contribution to fostering the study of this language is undeniable. As a mark of their mastery of the language, the scholars have composed dictionaries to suit learners from all backgrounds.

It now remains our responsibility to support and nurture this ancient language of India.

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