Dictionaries, part II

Another two-way dictionary that must be mentioned is the soon-to-be re-released classic by Dr. John C. Wells, a renowned linguist at University College London.

For over four decades his compact English–Esperanto–English Dictionary has been one of the standard reference works for English speakers, though unfortunately it has been out of print for some time. In March, New York publishing house Mondial will be releasing a new, fully revised and rewritten edition of this two-way dictionary.

Along with Benson’s Comprehensive English-Esperanto Dictionary, You should put Wells’ book at the top of your “must have” list. The price is discounted for preorders until February 28th.


For homework assignments—and for researching new words for your journal (nag, nag)—it’s helpful to have a few dictionaries on hand. At the end of the Richardson textbook there’s a short Esperanto-English dictionary, and in class we handed out a brief English-Esperanto dictionary to complement it. But these are relatively superficial references. There are many other sources you can (and should) use, both online and off.

In print

There are a plenty of printed dictionaries to choose from. The online bookstore of Esperanto-USA has quite a few. For beginners, however, the following are probably the best places to start:

Benson, Peter. Comprehensive English-Esperanto Dictionary.
Benson’s dictionary is the most extensive English-to-Esperanto dictionary available. It’s particularly helpful because each word is listed not only with its primary meaning(s), but also its use in various idioms. 1995. ISBN: 093978503X. 607p. $27.00.
Mclinen, Andrew. Pocket Esperanto Dictionary.
Like all concise dictionaries, this shouldn’t be one’s only reference. But it is very useful—and portable. 2001. 406p. ISBN 92 9017 072-7. $25.80
Ilustrita Oficiala Radikaro por Lernantoj.
This tiny book is a great resource for beginners: it contains over 2600 of the most commonly used words with their definitions in simple Esperanto. (This is the same dictionary we currently have on bulk order; when it comes in, copies will be available in class for $4.) 2008. 98p. ISBN 978-85-60661-05-3. $6.70.


Some sites you might find helpful:

  • Lernu! has a handy dictionary tool: look for it on the right-hand side of the page. Just type in a word, choose your language, and get a translation into (or out of) one of 35 languages!
  • Bazaj radikoj Esperanto-Esperanto by Wouter Pilger. A predecessor to the Ilustrita Oficiala Radikaro, this handy little dictionary presents the most common words of Esperanto with simple definitions in basic Esperanto.
  • Reta Vortaro (or ReVo), is a comprehensive dictionary for advanced students. Roots and derived forms are defined at length (in Esperanto), with occasional translations offered in national languages as well.

Class notes, Feb 16


We began chapter 3 of the text today and went over some of the solutions for chapter 2.

We introduced two new correlative words: kie (where) and tie (there), and talked about Esperanto’s flexible word order. In English, we use word order to distinguish subject from object:

The man eats an apple.

The word order tells us what did the eating (the man) and what was eaten (an apple). Change the word order, and the meaning is completely different:

An apple eats the man.

In Esperanto, the word order doesn’t matter so much. That’s because the direct object takes the ending -n, also known to grammarians as the accusative case. The -n shows the recipient of an action: it tells us who does what to whom.

In each of the following examples, even though the word order varies, La viro always does the eating, and pomon is always the thing that’s eaten:

La viro manĝas pomon.
La viro pomon manĝas.
Manĝas la viro pomon.
Manĝas pomon la viro.
Pomon manĝas la viro.
Pomon la viro manĝas.

If we change the location of the -n, we change the meaning:

La viron manĝas pomo! (Eeek!)

As they do with the plural ending -j, adjectives share the -n of their nouns:

Jen ruĝa pomo.
La viro manĝas ruĝan pomon.
Jen du ruĝaj pomoj.
La viro manĝas du ruĝajn pomojn.

Mazi en Gondolando

We watched the second half of part one of Mazi en Gondolando, where the -n ending is introduced:


  • If you didn’t send me your answers to chapter 2, be sure to check them against the answer key. If you didn’t finish chapter 2, be sure to finish it by next week!
  • Read the first half of chapter 3 and complete the exercises up to praktiko 3.3. Send me your answers at hoss dot firooznia at rochester dot edu for corrections, or bring them to class.
  • How is your journal going? Have you started it, hmm? :-) Try to record about five new terms a day that you have to look up in the dictionary (or in the vortolisto at the end of a textbook chapter). Try to use each word in a sentence if you can.

Class notes, Feb 9

Mazi en Gondolando

In class we watched part of the first episode of Mazi en Gondolando, an animated course originally developed by the BBC. It uses many of the grammatical structures we’ve covered so far: kiu, kio, and kia, noun and adjective formation, plurals, the present tense, and pronouns. Here’s the video on YouTube:


  • If you didn’t send me your answers to last week’s homework, be sure to check them against the answer key for chapter 1.
  • Read chapter 2 and complete the exercises. Send me your answers at hoss dot firooznia at rochester dot edu for corrections, or bring them to class.
  • Start keeping a journal of new roots or affixes you encounter. You should aim for a minimum of five new entries each day.

Class notes, Feb 2

Some music

A music video by Finnish band Dolchamar was playing at the beginning of class on Tuesday. If you’re interested, the song is Junaj idealistoj (“Young idealists”), and of course it’s on YouTube:


We talked about the morphology of Esperanto—how words are assembled out of roots, affixes (prefixes and suffixes) and grammatical endings.

One of the distinguishing features of the language is how these word-parts behave. In most languages they vary depending on where they appear, but in Esperanto they’re invariant: they always have the same spelling and pronunciation.

The roots and affixes can also combine freely: you can assemble them in almost any order, as long as the resulting combination makes sense. This feature allows you to express a wide range of ideas using a very small lexicon. Instead of memorizing long lists of different words for related ideas, you can often re-use the basic roots and affixes you already know.

For example: using the root manĝ- (“a meal; the act of eating”), we can add common affixes and endings to make a wide variety of words that have to be memorized separately in English:

  • manĝo a meal
  • manĝi to eat
  • manĝo food
  • manĝejo dining room / cafeteria
  • manĝujo manger
  • manĝilo dining utensil
  • manĝilaro silverware
  • manĝebla edible (not poisonous)
  • manĝinda edible (worth eating)
  • manĝema gluttonous
  • manĝeti to nibble at
  • manĝeto a snack
  • manĝegi to gorge
  • manĝigi to feed
and so on…

From the chapter

Chapter 1 introduces the grammatical endings -o (for nouns) and -j (for plurals), and the suffixes -in- (feminine) and -ej- (place). We also talked about the article la, the present-tense verb ending -as, and the words kiu (which one/person) and corresponding tiu (that one/person). There’s also the very useful word kaj, which means and!


  • Read chapter 1 and study the readings until you understand them. Complete exercises 1.1–1.4 and the questions on page six. Send your answers to me at hoss dot firooznia at rochester dot edu and I’ll correct them for you—or bring them to class and I’ll give you a key so that you can correct them yourself.
  • Remember to practice at least a few minutes every day! Don’t try to cram a week’s worth of study into a single session; language learning works best when you manĝetas. :-)

Novaj ligiloj al literaturo New literature links

Ni aldonis du novajn ligilojn en la paĝo pri literaturo: unu al grandega kolekto (je pli ol 200 MB granda) de bele kompostitaj klasikaĵoj, plejparte tradukitaj, kaj unu al kolekto de originalaj verkoj de hungaraj majstroj inkluzive de Kalocsay kaj Baghy.

Two new links added in the Literature section: A huge collection (over 200MB) of beautifully formatted classics, mostly translated, and a collection of original works by 20th-century Hungarian masters including Kalocsay and Baghy.