Books on Monday: Haugen’s Norwegian dictionary

Looking for Norwegian ancestry, a good dictionary is a must.

Norwegian-English Dictionary: A Pronouncing and Translating Dictionary of Modern Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk) with a Historical and Grammatical Introduction
For more than forty years, the Haugen Norwegian–English Dictionary has been regarded as the foremost resource for both learners and professionals using English and Norwegian. With more than 60,000 entries, it is esteemed for its breadth, its copious grammatical detail, and its rich idiomatic examples. In his introduction, Einar Haugen, a revered scholar and teacher of Norwegian to English speakers, provides a concise overview of the history of the language, presents the pronunciation of contemporary Norwegian, and introduces basic grammatical structures, including the inflection of nouns and adjectives and the declension of verbs.
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One thought on “Books on Monday: Haugen’s Norwegian dictionary

  • September 3, 2018 at 3:34 pm

    I got my first computer in 2001, and Haugen’s translating dictionary shortly thereafter (from St. Olaf’s College Bookstore in Northfield, Minnesota). I had just found three living fifth cousins in Norway, through whom I was introduced to the first version of Digitalarkivet records (transcribed, the images of the written records came a few years later – the organization of the first Digitalarkivet web site with the indices of parishes/prestegjelds for each fylke and what was online remains the best version in which to search the database; I’m lost in this last version and don’t like the organization of it at all because I usually know which fylke or parish/kommune I need to search so I don’t need to search the whole nation’s records, and there is no index of what is currently available for each fylke (and yes, I know the fylke boundaries and names, changed on 1 January this year, but the church books and transcriptions are still under the old names, and that’s the format I need in an index to find records).

    Then I joined the Norway List with genealogy researchers from all over the world, and discovered the pre-1900 records I was dealing with were all in Dano-Norsk, spellings were phonetic, sometimes using regional dialects, and if the minister was educated in Denmark or Germany or at a seminary, the names or words might be written in some form of Dano-Norsk with Latin, or German spellings/terms…, not to mention the interchangeable letters like W/V, I/J/(and sometimes Y), G/K, Q/K, T/D, etc. (If memory serves, I think my Norwegian teacher said the first Norwegian dictionary was not published until 1917.) Oddly enough, when it came to the written records after Digitalarkivet first put them online, I was able to understand the three extra vowels, but that might be because I knew about them from the years I studied (modern) Norwegian in the early 1980s (and promptly forgot much of what I learned because I had no one with whom I could practice speaking the language), and by then one of the fifth cousins in Norway had sent images of three letters my grandfather had written to his cousin in Norway in the early 20th century and his careful handwriting in Norwegian as a young man (that he learned from his parents who were both Norwegian immigrants from Nord-Trøndelag) was legible enough for me to understand how the extra vowels were written (especially æ Æ).

    When I got my Haugen’s, I opened it, started thumbing through it very fast…, discovered blank pages and page number gaps in at least three different places. I immediately phoned the bookstore, told them, mailed back the defective volume that same day, and they immediately sent a replacement dictionary that I received in less than a week. They were very pleasant about it, and, of course the blank pages were not their fault anyway, but the printer’s. Presumably no one has had any problems since (just be aware it happened once, so it could happen again – check the dictionary as soon as you get it).

    Because virtually all of my Norwegian genealogy research is pre-1900/1910, I rely heavily on Otto Jørgensen’s “Norwegian-American Dictionary” with old spellings > new spellings > definitions in English [ ], Haugen’s, and then last year I found your (Martin’s) web site with another dictionary AND the dictionary of terms for causes of death. A few things I cannot do without in researching my ancestors from seven different countries: translating dictionaries and maps (I have locations my ancestors lived at memorized on maps now, and I’ve done screen shots of many maps to include with my genealogy files), the help of various researchers from all round the world since genealogy research is not done in a vacuum and one can always use all the help one can get (the Rootsweb Norway genealogy list is very active), and I’ve spread out to include any information I can find on YouTube with scenery, landmarks, music, dance, information on language and pronunciation of words [for which I use a text-to-speech site if it’s only one or two words, or even just a letter of an alphabet ], histories (going clear back to Vikings, or even the pre-Viking ages for archaeological sites, museums, etc. I love the necessary trivia information because it helps me to understand what life might have been like for my ancestors (or people who married into my family, most from Norway, since I’ve researched a lot of the ancestors of spouses of siblings of my parents, grandparents, and gr-grandparents).

    In any case, I highly recommend getting Einar Haugen’s Norwegian-English translating dictionary. If nothing else, buy it for yourself for your birthday or Christmas or whatever holiday you want to celebrate to treat yourself! 🙂


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