A better Pali Dictionary

It could work either based on some regex rules to guess word suffixes, but it wouldn’t be precise. Other way is to rely on the dictionary to provide meta information on word - and a specially crafted dictionary at that, a one that will have enough information. Anyway, the colouring was supposed to be a help in translating, not a 100% precise information.

Having even better Pali English dictionary will be great, but currently the one that is on SC + printed Cone’s dictionary do the job for me. What I will need eventually though, is a Pali - Polish dictionary. None exist as far as I know, which is why I need software that will help me easily build one, and that is the motivation behind my plans. I don’t want to invest >24 years as M. Cone did :wink:

As for the Pootle stuff, I would have to try it myself to see what it can do.

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The NCPED should be of some help. It contains the case info in (mostly) predictable form.[quote=“tuvok, post:81, topic:2445”]
What I will need eventually though, is a Pali - Polish dictionary

Well, that would be excellent.

You can try a vanilla demo here:

let me know if you want to poke around SC’s implementation, which has a few hacks.

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I’m not sure how you can avoid translating it as “sign” in some of those samadhi contexts. In the examples I stated in the previous post, SN 8.4, MN 20, using “basis” or “cause” can be ambiguous and unclear.

If I turn away from the “cause” of beauty, what should I be turning away from? should I turn away from the girl’s mom and dad? The girl’s perfume? I should be turning away from anything more than 16 years old? I should be turning away from time?

None of that quite makes sense, whereas nimitta as “sign” makes perfect sense there.

It’s also consistent with the most fundamental practice of guarding the sense doors:

cakkuna rupam disva, na nimitta-gaahi hoti, naanubyanjana gaahi …
sotena … na nimitta-gaahi hoti …
ghanena … na nimitta-gaahi hoti …
jivhaya …

not grabbing on to the “sign” makes sense, not grabbing on to a “cause” or “basis” feels like a complicated metaphysical riddle.

And of course, a-nimitta samadhi, sign-less concentration, has a very clear meaning when nimitta is consistently translated as “sign” in those examples. “no-basis” or “cause-less” samadhi is confusing under any circumstance.

edit: addition
Ven. T. (Thanissaro) translates nimitta in different ways according to context, and I don’t like that, because when I relied on his translations alone, then I didn’t see the connections. But after studying the pali and examining how the pali “nimitta” was used in context under different circumstances I could intuit its meaning.

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I agree, but the problem is the meaning doesn’t quite map on to any English word. So you have to choose: either translate it according to context, or translate it consistently and end up with odd and incomprehensible meanings in a certain set of cases.

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Finally got a CPED kindle dictionary that works (used the text file with 10374 entries - pretty sure I got it here). (Unfortunately, it doesn’t take care of noun declensions and verb conjugations, yet, maybe.).

PED versions (to proper mobi dictionary): eBook: Pali-English Dictionary (PTS) | Path Press
PS - did not use these, but used Leigh Brasington’s file:

Finally, maybe to explore on how to take care of various endings of pali words. :slight_smile:

20180403 I’ve made a combined CPED (corrected, but not proofread) and PED mobi file; added some links so that one can use it like a book too.
Found limitations with PED portion - the diacritical marks are not retained!
So, won’t be spending more time on this.


How are they different from the version used on SC?

When you were listing the existing dictionaries I see you did not mention Childers. Is it because you see any defect? I discovered it recently on google books. Just today received the hard copy I ordered from a print-on-demand publisher. And one thing I find really handy is the definitions for most words are concise like the CPED, except more controversial ones where it becomes paragraphs like PTS. But the other thing is its arranged in Latin alphabet order which is like a godsend to an American beginner. No more frustration over finding the words.

Childers is effectively 100% superseded by the PTS and later dictionaries. We don’t use it, and I don’t even know if anyone has digitized it.

The order of words doesn’t matter for us, as you just get what word you want. Anyway, Indian alphabetical order is a construct of sublime beauty that you should learn just to bring you solace and joy.


Argh! Just found missing entries in CPED. Looks like I’ll still be carrying the hardcopy for a while.

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These just happen to be the ones where I have the txt files. Will be happy to convert any other dictionary into mobi format too, e.g. Pali Proper Names, Nyanatiloka’s (good for beginners?).


Thank you for this! :heart:

The PTS is pleased to announce the publication of Part III of Margaret Cone’s A Dictionary of Pāli covering Pali words from p- to bh-.
With its publication, this new Pali–English dictionary covers approximately three quarters of the Pali lexicon.
The dictionary is an essential tool for reading Pali texts, both canonical and commentarial.
It incorporates advances made in Pali studies since the 1920s when Rhys Davids and Stede’s Pali–English Dictionary was first published.
And since A Critical Pāli Dictionary was discontinued in 2011, having reached kāretu-kāma, the new PTS dictionary, which includes words and meanings not found in the earlier dictionaries, is set to become the most comprehensive dictionary of the Pali language for the foreseeable future.
The work to complete the fourth and final part of the dictionary continues.

A Dictionary of Pāli, Part III, P-Bh, ed. M. Cone. Bristol: Pali Text Society, 2020, 683 pages
13-ISBN 987 0 86013 529 6
10-ISBN 0 86013 529 2

List Price: £ 55.00


Finally! Sādhu, sādhu! Thanks for sharing the news.

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Gabriel, do you know how old Mrs. Cone is by now? Hope she will have a long and happy life …


Hi, I have no idea! Couldn’t find much about her online … :thinking:

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Cone’s translation (with Richard Gombrich) of the Vessantara Jātaka was published back in 1977. Assuming she was at least 25 when she did that, she’ll be at least 68 now.


Thank you for the answers. Yes, must be something in that range if she had a publication back then already … Meaning her official career is basically over with nearly 70 (perhaps 70 +), but perhaps she will keep going like Richard Gombrich with his 80 + years. I would be glad.


Out of curiosity, I did a quick google about her. Here’s a rather charming interview with her from 5 years ago that Google threw up (the piece mainly focuses on a jataka story, but also talks about her dictionary, which she says near the start that she has been 30 years at). At the very end, she says she’s half-way through the third volume and it will be out in another 4 or 5 years, which turned out to be spot on. Though she also says about the fourth volume that it probably won’t be her that’s writing it! But maybe at this point she’ll just keep on going if her health is good.


I did a search of a random word to see what the dictionary looks like and then had some thoughts. Then I did a forum search to see what was said about the dictionary. So now that I see all the issues and difficulties and thoughts and just the monumental task that came with compiling a dictionary for here, I am more hesitant to make my suggestions. So I will make them anyway, and please just take it or leave it. I am ordering this in what I personally think could be the order of importance.

So first, I now see that one of the biggest points to this dictionary is that you want to stick to only the EBT Pāli. So I am modifying my first suggestion accordingly. I think it would be nice to see what terms the major EBT translators have chosen as English words. This of course would include Bhante Sujato’s terminology, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Bhikkhu Thanissaro, etc. This is something that the standard Tibetan digital dictionary does and I cannot tell you how useful this dictionary is when you are trying to translate. Back when my Tibetan was stronger and I made some translations of my own, this was my gold standard! Try a standard word like shes rab (prajña), you can search words using Wylie:

The other thing that would be really nice would be to include the Classical Chinese equivalents found in the parallels to help facilitate anyone working on Agama translation. If my first suggestion is taken into account, a translator would be able to click on a Chinese word, which links back to Pāli equivalents, which link to all the English translations done by all the big translators. The reverse order for anyone with a Pāli background brave enough to learn classical Chinese could also use that as a tool to learn Classical Chinese. So I am seeing this as both useful for language students and translators. I am assuming such a feature would never be entirely complete and would involve a lot of guess work. They were working on Sanskrit texts that may not have Pāli parallels, for example, etc. But I think even if you just stuck with the words we know for sure is a parallel, this could be of benefit. We have a lot fewer translations of Agama texts in English than Nikaya texts, and anything to help facilitate Agama translation is a plus in my book.

Similar to my second suggestion, I would love to see the Sanskrit equivalents of Pāli terms. And if anyone were to search the Sanskrit terms included in this dictionary (similar to the Chinese suggestions above) you could get the Pāli. This would be nice for someone like myself who is familiar with the Tibetan field (probably Chinese too) because we tend to fall back on Sanskrit a lot. This could help facilitate conversations between the three Buddhist fields of study—Pāli, Chinese, and Tibetan (I still fantasize a Tibetan some day deciding to translate the Nikayas and Agamas into Tibetan and updating the Tibetan canon!). Of course I would love to see the Tibetan equivalents as well… but once Sanskrit is there, the tools already exist to get from Sanskrit to Tibetan/Tibetan to Sanskrit. As I said, my Tibetan is rusty, but were I to brush up on it, and was able to search the Tibetan in the Tibetan translation tool… I would get the Sanskrit. Then I could look up the Sanskrit here and get the Pāli and see the entries and English choices used by EBT translators. In such a way, were I to try to translate a Tibetan EBT for sutta central, I would have everything I need to do so and build my skill back up and contribute. So I see this as potentially really useful.

Anyway, this could take years and I don’t know how feasible making such a compilation would be. Or how worthwhile you think this would be. But my suggestions come fairly close to my fantasy dictionary.


okay, well that would be more-or-less the NCPED.

We have a terminology list, and perhaps this could be integrated with a dictionary.

This would not be easy, but a start could be made from the digital dictionary of Buddhism (the prime source of Buddhist Chinese).

That would be nice, I’m not sure if anyone has done this. the problem is that for exerts in the filed the correspondence is (usually) obvious. But that doesn’t help when you’re searching for terms, or trying to identify obscure forms.

Oh, certainly! The approach would be to break it up into workable chunks, and deliver something useful. The main thing is to get clean, well-structured data, creating an application is secondary.