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Harpercollins Unabridged Spanish Dictionary Hardcover – Unabridged, January 15, 1997

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Just as certain innocuous American expressions, like "fanny pack," should never be used in London, certain Spanish words, like "coger," are perfectly acceptable in Madrid and perfectly vulgar in Buenos Aires. So when picking a Spanish-English dictionary, it's important to choose one that clearly indentifies variations in regional usage. The three titles reviewed here all have a comprehensive, unabridged range of entries, which include cross-referencing and phonetic spellings and definitions that range in length from three lines to two pages. They all provide a thorough summary of Spanish and English grammar, with tables of irregular verbs. Most importantly, they all handle issues of usage with clarity and sensitivity. Of the trio, the Larousse is the best known. It's certainly the most exhaustive reference on idiomatic and technical expressions. The Larousse consistently distinguishes between Latin American and Peninsular usage, though its definitions do lean towards Spain and Britain. Its translation of ch?vere, for example, as "brilliant" might lead some American readers to believe the word connotes a degree of intelligence, when, in fact, its meaning is closer to "super" or "fantastic." In a particularly notable gaffe, the Larousse's entry on ba?o doesn't contain the word "bathroom" though that's how the word is used most often in Latin America because in Spain the term for "restrooms" is los servicios. The Oxford does a better job of distinguishing between British and American diction (its entry on ba?o goes so far as to outline the distinctions among "bathroom," "lavatory," "loo," and "washroom"), and its explanations of the language variations within Latin America are more specific than the Larousse's. Guagua, it lets you know, is an informal word for "baby" in the Andes region and a slang term for "bus" in Cuba and the Canary Islands. (The Larousse groups both these meanings under the more general heading "American usage.") The Oxford also contains useful boxes that cluster words by topic (colors, the human body, etc.), as well as a glossary explaining cultural terms that don't have simple translations, such as "Mason-Dixon Line" and sobremesa (the time spent drinking and talking around a table after a meal is finished). Like the Oxford, the Harper Collins dictionary contains notes on cultural topics, and it also provides country-specific guidelines for usage in Latin America. Though its layout is the least elegant of the three, the Harper Collins provides the strongest coverage of Latin American slang. For example, it's the only dictionary we reviewed that gave all the various meanings of perico, a curious word that, depending on the context and location, can mean parakeet, toupee, cocaine, milky coffee, or scrambled eggs with fried onions. Such impressive thoroughness has made the Harper Collins dictionary a favorite among academics specializing in Latin American studies. The Harper Collins dictionary also goes a step further than grammar review with its "Language in Use" section, which presents a painstaking introduction to business writing style in both English and Spanish. This section, which helps readers find equivalents for such hard-to-translate expressions as Me he enterado con gran tristeza de la muerte de tu..." for "I was very sad to learn of the death of...," teaches users how to phrase a job application letter, how to pronounce an e-mail address, and how to draft an official apology, among other business necessities. A good Spanish-English dictionary should help readers navigate complex regional differences. All these dictionaries do this quite well, but the Harper Collins should be the first choice among libraries. Larger libraries would do well to offset the Harper Collins's deficiencies in Cervantes-style Spanish by purchasing a copy of the Larousse as well, and those seriously interested in linguistic variations may want to add the Oxford, which does the best job charting the differences between British and American English. Marcela Valdis, "Criticas".
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English, Spanish
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1679 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 5th edition (January 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062702076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062702074
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 8 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #283,369 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Timothy Ritter on June 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent dictionary. I could see just by glancing at it that it was a far better product than all the others, but when I actually sat down with it and took it for a spin I was amazed.
It includes such colloquialisms as heebie-jeebies, traipse, snoop, zit, and nosh. It includes such technical terms as theodolite (which the MS Word dictionary does not recognize), sprocket, and pixel. All the curse words and vulgarities I've ever heard are there, plus some additional ones I've never heard. And they have a special three-dot system whereby you can tell just how bad the word is considered by native speakers.
In the center of the volume is a very useful section on grammar and usage which has an abundance of the sort of examples you need when you're grappling with a new word.
While the coverage of Latin American Spanish is very good, there are still discrepancies and omissions that seem to stem from an Old World point of view. The letter(s) ll is said to be pronounced like the lli in million or like j in Latin America. But in over a quarter century of travel in Central and South America, as well as in conversations with Spanish speakers in the US, I have never yet heard anyone say "Como te liamas?" instead of "Como te yamas?"
Should you be planning a climb in the Andes, you can find the words for cairn and crampon, but you'll have to look elsewhere for carabiner and gabion (neither of which the MS dictionary recognizes). Considering all the Mexicans working in the US construction industry, you'd think the editors would include words for a wooden stud or 2-by-4, but they don't. A large percentage of these guest craftsmen specialize in concrete work, but Harper Collins doesn't have a listing for rebar.
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By A Customer on April 26, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I've compared all other unabridged Spanish/English dictionaries and found Harper Collins superior. It contains all of the following: extensive definitons; contextual references for each meaning; linguistic variations and examples between verbs for fine shades of meaning; excellent coverage of Spanish as found in North America, S. America, Central America; Language in Use section, unique among all, with copious examples; and excellent idiomatic coverage of real-life usage. Naturally, this dictionary is limited in some ways. One will not find "very slang" usage listed in general; nor will one find much coverage of very "regional" idioms. But this is normal; most dictionaries only list the most common idioms or phrases used. I am a fluent Spanish speaker and also possess an M.A. in Spanish and find this work to be the most complete on the market. Add to that the fact that this dictionary is updated every 2 years. Most are revised/expaned every 4-6. So...if you are looking for the best money can buy, ignore the others. This is the best in coverage and features that the market offers.
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Format: Hardcover
I'm studying for my doctorate in Spanish Literature so by this one can note that I've been using and going through a slew of Spanish dictionaries for many, many years. This dictionary is the best one I've ever used for many reasons.
For one, I'm referring to the 'hardcover' edition. It's so wonderful to be able to open the book to a specific page, and have the book lay down flat without my having to keep one hand opening the dictionary and one hand opening my book. This is a small and frivolous detail, but when having to read dialectal Spanish from the Caribbean or Old Spanish, one must constantly refer to the dictionary. Having a dictionary that lies flat when opened is a tremendous help.
Secondly, it's indispensable if you are reading literature from other Spanish speaking countries apart from Mexico and Spain. I've found Cubanismos that I've never found in other dictionaries -- this saves valuable time from having second rate dictionaries and having to look for these obscure words on the internet.
In the middle of the dictionary is a comprehensive grammar and communication guide in Spanish and English. Everything from a clear explanation of key grammar points to standard models for everyday correspondence, resumes, invitations and email. It's an investment, it's expensive, but it's well worth the price.
Concerning the comment of a reviewer never having heard the /ll/ pronounced as /li/ as in "¿Cómo te 'liamas'?", this pronunciation can be heard among many speakers of Argentina, I've heard it myself from an older Argentine woman who taught this pronunciation to the students she instructed in Spanish. This serves as additional proof of how thorough and complete this splendid tome is.
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Format: Hardcover
Harper-Collins has produced the best, most organized dictionary of the Spanish language out on the market. Excellent organization, classification, and regional distinctions (eg. where words are used among the various Spanish speaking nations of the world) has made Harper-Collins' dictionary series the best. Oxford, Larousse, and Penguin's dictionaries can't meet the organizational and thoughful research the Harper-Collins staff has done. This dictionary is worth every penny!
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