Recommended French legal and business dictionaries

On this page, I give an overview of three specialist French-English dictionaries in the fields of business and law. The dictionaries are each recommended for slightly different reasons and each will appeal to a slightly different audience.

Harrap's French and English Business Dictionary

If you work with or have to translate general business texts in French, then I would strongly recommend Harrap's French-English business dictionary as a starting point. The dictionary has good coverage of general vocabulary in a number of business-related fields, including office IT, commerce and marketing, finance and economics, telecommunications etc. A strength over French & European Publications' offering (see below) is that it provides clearer guidance on word choice for those working into their non-native language. Overall, it also provides more complete coverage of compound phrases. Of the two, it offers the clearer layout, albeit in a larger format.

Additional sections give guidance on writing some typical business letters and CVs and covering letters in French and English, along with snippets such as guidance on writing e-mails and SMS/e-mail abbreviations in the two languages and and overview of business meeting protocol in French-speaking and Anglosaxon cultures.

All-in-all, a must-have for anyone working with French and English in a business context.

Buy Harrap's French and English Business Dictionary from the US
Buy Harrap's French and English Business Dictionary from Canada
Buy Harrap's French and English Business Dictionary from the UK

Dictionnaire économique, commercial et financier
French & European Publications

This dictionary has generally good headword coverage. For general business vocabulary, it often suggests a slightly wider list of alternatives than some other dictionaries, and is thus one of my favourites as a source of ideas when the usual translation to spring to mind doesn't quite work, or when I want to avoid repeating myself. Compared to other dictionaries such as the Harrap's, it offers little guidance on choosing which target word to use. Thus, it will be of interest mainly to translators working into their native language, or users otherwise highly proficient in the target language, who are in a position to verify/research the translations suggested as need be.

Auxiliary information includes a useful list of basic business and finance abbreviations in the two languages.

Slight negative points are that the typography is not as clear as other dictionaries, since italics are used both for field labels and for examples/compound phrases, and coverage of the latter appears slightly more sparse than in the Harrap's. So some extent, this may be the price to pay for the dictionary's more compact format.

Buy French Dictionary of Economics, Business and Finance from the US
Buy French Dictionary of Economics, Business and Finance from Canada
Buy French Dictionary of Economics, Business and Finance from the UK

Dahl's Law Dictionary
William S. Hein & Company

Specifically for the legal terminology that crops up both in standalone contracts and in terms and conditions that may be embedded in other business or administrative documents, Dahl's French-English Law Dictionary is a highly recommended reference. The dictionary takes a different approach to the previous two dictionaries, and indeed to many bilingual dictionaries, in that many key words and phrases are given encyclopaedic entries. (Note that French terms are glossed in English, while English terms are glossed in French.)

This encyclopaedic treatment is particularly valuable in the field of law, where direct mappings of concepts between the two languages is tricky due to differences in the legal systems of French-speaking and English-speaking countries. Many of the encyclopaedic entries also include references to relevant acts or decrees. These references can save a great deal of time, for example, in providing footnotes to a legal translation in order to clarify the interpretation of a particular expression, or for those occasions when it is necessary to refer to the original text of a law in order to verify that a given translation or interpretation is appropriate.

The strength of this dictionary is its coverage of legal terminology. For coverage of more general words that may crop up in a French legal text (for example, in a business-related contract), the reader is advised to use this dictionary in conjunction with the previous offering.

Buy Dahl's Law Dictionary from the US
Buy Dahl's Law Dictionary from Canada
Buy Dahl's Law Dictionary from the UK

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