Review of a Digitised Swiss German Dictionary

Written by Dyami Millarson

What dictionary should one use for learning Swiss German? Where to find a reliable free online Swiss German dictionary? Are there any good, free (i.e., public domain) dictionaries of Swiss German available? These are all questions one might have when one intends to learn Swiss German.

One reliable digitised Swiss German dictionary I know is the following: Schweizerisches Idiotikon.

Potential disadvantages of this dictionary:

  • it requires one to know German and this might be a hurdle for some;
  • it might take time to learn how to make optimal use of this dictionary;
  • one gets overloaded with technical information about different word variations and this might initially make one confused about what forms to choose for one’s own usage;
  • when one checks the scanned original dictionary entry, one is obliged to transcribe the phonetic spelling to a modern Swiss German spelling.

Potential advantages of this dictionary:

  • it contains an abundance of information that is still relevant today;
  • it contains practical grammatical information (such as the conjugation of irregular verbs);
  • it informs you properly about word variations found in Germanic Switzerland;
  • if you know how to use this dictionary, it will make learning Swiss German easier.


    • Thank you for your sympathetic comment. I am aware it is a struggle for speakers of Standard German (Hochdeutsch) to understand Swiss German. It helps to see Swiss German for the separate language family it truly is: since it takes so much effort to learn Swiss German (for speakers of Hochdeutsch), it makes sense to recognise that the so-called ‘Swiss dialects’ are actually independent languages that require one’s full attention to learn to speak and understand, just like how one would study French or English. Likewise, much people think there is a single Frisian language, which is why they do not pay attention to the so-called ‘dialects’, but Frisian is actually a language family, which consists of many independent languages and we are studying all of them while we know they rewuire and deserve equal attention. I hope that what I said about Swiss German and Frisian makes sense to you! 🙂

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  1. I speak a Swiss German dialect from my home canton of Bern and more specific to the city of Bern. Although I understand other dialects in Switzerland and can communicate in dialect with others, Switzerland does not have a standard Swiss German. Standardising it would be a travesty. Each dialect reveals something of its people and is linked to their pride of place. And losing that is one step away from our identity.

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