Christina Courtright
Certified Spanish-English Translator and Interpreter

My favorite dictionaries and reference books for Spanish-English translation and interpreting

Most of my work is in the legal field, or is used for legal purposes.

No two legal systems are based on the same laws, rules or principles, thus it is impossible to produce a literal, word-for-word rendering of a text or utterance.

Instead, the goal is to produce a target text that is the legal equivalent of the source text, taking into account both the true meaning of the source and the context in which the target is to be understood. Complementary goals are to preserve the linguistic register of the original and to ensure accuracy and completeness.

I use these dictionaries and reference books as well as a wide array of constantly-updated bookmarks on the Web:

Legal dictionaries and reference:

Spanish-English Dictionary of Law and Business, 2nd ed. Revised, corrected and expanded, by Thomas L. West III. Intermark, 2012, ISBN 9781929570010. Truly remarkable and admirable in explaining fine nuances of meaning.

Diccionario Jurídico Español-Inglés / Spanish-English Law Dictionary (2 vol.), by Guillermo Cabanellas de las Cuevas & Eleanor C. Hoague. Heliasta, 2008, ISBN 9789509065796. Extremely detailed.

Diccionario de Terminología Jurídica Norteamericana / Dictionary of United States Legal Terminology, by Javier F. Becerra. Escuela Libre de Derecho, 2008, ISBN 9789686236200. English>Spanish, detailed compendium useful for translating and interpreting U.S. legal concepts into Spanish, especially for Mexico.

Diccionario de Terminología Jurídica Mexicana / Dictionary of Mexican Legal Terminology, by Javier F. Becerra. Escuela Libre de Derecho, 2011, ISBN 9789686236248. Spanish>English, just as detailed as its counterpart, and particularly useful for translating Mexican legal documents and speech.

Diccionario de Términos Jurídicos Inglés-Español / Spanish-English, 8th ed., by Enrique Alcaraz Varó and Brian Hughes. Ariel, 2005, ISBN 8434432366. Good explanations for translating legal concepts, also good for business use. There is a 10th edition, ISBN 8434432633.

Black's Law Dictionary, 8th ed., 2004.

The Interpreter's Companion, by Holly Mikkelsen / Acebo (, 2001. Available in pocket-sized book and/or CD-ROM. Useful in US courts. Sections on everyday legal terms, medical (with anatomical diagrams), traffic (with diagrams), weapons (diagrams), drugs, slang, insults, sex.

Criminal Court Dictionary English-Spanish / Español-Inglés, by Dennis McKenna. Adelfa Books, 2006, ISBN 0976080117. Very specific to US courts, emphasis on Mexican Spanish. This is the one I take with me the most.

Tomasi's Law Dictionary: An English-Spanish Dictionary of Criminal Law and Procedure, by Sandro Tomasi /, 2009, ISBN 9780578049663. Scholarly research underpins this excellent tool for court interpreters and legal translators who struggle to convert US legal terms into their legal equivalents in Spanish.

Spanish-English/English-Spanish Pocket Legal Dictionary, by James Nolan. Hippocrene Books, 2008, ISBN 0781812143.

Bilingual Law Dictionary / Diccionario Jurídico Bilingüe, by Cuauhtémoc Gallegos. Merl Publications, 2005, ISBN 1886347034. Also for US courts, great for neologisms.

McGraw-Hill's Spanish and English Legal Dictionary / Diccionario Jurídico Inglés-Español, by Henry Saint Dahl. 2004, ISBN 0071415297. Most useful for translating Puerto Rican legal documents.

On my computer:
Illegal Drugs Terminology for Judiciary Interpreters (English-Spanish), by M. Eta Trabing and Alex W. Trabing. Berkana Language Center, 2010.

Most used on the Web:
Criminal Codes from around the world
FindLaw Dictionary of Legal Terms
U.S. Code
Indiana Code

Business and finance:

Diccionario de Economía, Finanzas y Empresa Español-Inglés / Spanish-English Dictionary of Economics, Finance and Business (2 vol.), by Guillermo Cabanellas de las Cuevas & Eleanor C. Hoague. Heliasta, 2005, ISBN 9508850639. Extremely detailed.

English-Spanish Real Estate Dictionary, by Nora Olmos and Charles J. Jacobus. Thomson Southwestern, 2005, ISBN 0324222742.


Spanish-English / English-Spanish Medical Dictionary, 3rd ed., by Onyria Herrera McElroy and Lola L. Grabb. Lipincott Williams & Wilkins, 2005, ISBN 0781750113, with CD-ROM to install permanently onto hard disk. Full dictionary plus simple phrases for different medical situations and many color diagrams.

Idioms and regional Spanish:

Streetwise Spanish Dictionary / Thesaurus, by Mary McVey Gill and Brenda Wegmann. McGraw-Hill, 2001, ISBN 0844225517. Organized by topic, with notes on national origin. Now available in a new edition with audio CD for pronunciation, ISBN 0071460861.

Dictionary of Mexicanismos, 2nd ed., by Dennis McKenna. Adelfa Books, 2006, ISBN 0976080125. Fundamental reference for interpreting in US Courts.

Bilingual Dictionary of Mexican Spanish / Diccionario Bilingüe de Mexicanismos, 3rd ed., by Bernard H. Hamel. Bilingual Book Press, 2002, ISBN 1886835055.

Diccionario de Salvadoreñismos, 2nd ed., by Matías Romero. Editorial Delgado, 2005, ISBN 9992383704.

La Lengua Salvadoreña: El Español que Hablamos en El Salvador, 2nd ed., by Pedro Geoffroy Rivas. San Salvador: Dirección de Publicaciones e Impresos, 1999.

Most used on the Web:

General dictionaries and reference:

Webster's New World International Spanish Dictionary (formerly Simon & Schuster's), 2nd ed. ISBN 0764576437.

The Firefly Spanish/English Visual Dictionary, by Jean-Claude Corbeil & Ariane Archambault, Firefly Books, 2007, ISBN 9781552979518. If you can visualize it, you can find a translation.

Glosario Internacional para el Traductor, Inglés-Castellano / Spanish-English, 4th ed., by Marina Orellana. Editorial Universitaria, 2003, ISBN 9561116405. Particularly useful for terms of art in a variety of disciplines, socio-economic development, international relations.

Diccionario de Ideas Afines, 2nd ed., by Fernando Corripio. Ediciones Herder, 2007, ISBN 9788425425004. More than a thesaurus, as it discusses the nuances that differentiate possible word choices.

Diccionario de Uso de las Preposiciones Españolas, by Emile Slager. Editorial Espasa, 2004, ISBN 8467014474. This 2004 edition is apparently out of print, but the 2nd edition is ISBN 8467025905.

Comprehensive Bilingual Dictionary of Spanish False Cognates / Gran Diccionario de Falsos Amigos del Inglés, 2nd ed., by Bernard H. Hamel. Bilingual Book Press, 2004, ISBN 1886835071.

Pequeño Larousse Ilustrado, 15th ed.

Roget's International Thesaurus, 5th ed.

Merriam-Webster's Spanish-English / English-Spanish dictionary (Pocket-sized). 2003, ISBN 087779-916-4, full of Latin American terms.

On my computer:
Oxford Spanish Dictionary, 3rd ed. (full-sized) Nothing better!!!

Most used on the Web: - Diccionario de la Real Academia Española and Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas.

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