Nepali Dictionaries

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Category Linguistics
Allied Category Lexicography


It was the English who first began to compile dictionaries in Nepali. As far back as 1811, Colonel Kirkpatrick published a book of Nepali vocabulary. The Moravian Missionaries who began to visit Darjeeling as early as 1841 are said to have compiled a Nepali Dictionary but it never saw the light of the day. In 1904, Rev Turnbull started compiling an English-Nepali Dictionary. On his death in 1905 his friend and colleague Rev R. Kilgour continued his work and collected much material while engaged in translating the Old Testament into Nepali. 1916, he handed over this material to Rev. H. C. Duncan who with the help of Rev. Ganga Prasad Pradhan published it in 1922. He also compiled a Nepali - English Dictionary. This material was incorporated in Ralph Turner's famous work A Comparative and Etymological Dictionary of the Nepali Language published in 1931. Turner's voluminous work consisting of 26,000 words is still regarded as the first real dictionary in Nepali and has been a perennial source of inspiration to subsequent Lexicographers. In 1936, Angrezi Nepali Kosh edited by Pushkar Samsher J. B. R. was published by Nepali Bhasa Prakashani Samiti in two volumes

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In 1948, when the Gorkha Brigade arrived in Malaya, there was a sudden demand for textbooks, newspapers and training manuals, etc for the Gorkha soldiers and their English officers. Nepali Sahitya, published by Macmillan & Co, was issued in Roman Gorkhali (Nepali) and so also was Parbate, a newspaper from Malaya. These publications brought in hundreds of new words which had to be added to Turner's Dictionary. Nepali being a phonetic script, the spelling approximates pronunciation. Since pronunciation varies from place to place, the difference in spelling made it difficult to place some of the words in alphabetical order. Captain Meerindonk of the Gorkha Brigade who was the editor of Parbate, was left to sort out this gigantic problem as best as he could. He increased Turner's 26,000 words to 48,000 in his basic 'Gurkhali Dictionary in Roman Script' published in 1951.


The need for a less expensive dictionary for students was keenly felt by Parasmani Pradhan, then a teacher in Darjeeling and his son Nagendra Mani Pradhan. Together they brought out Student's Standard Dictionary (English - Nepali) which was first published in 1948 by Sanyal & Co. Within 24 years the authors compiled and published several other dictionaries of various sizes. The first of these was Students' Pocket Dictionary (English - Nepali) published in 1951. Then came Pradhan's New Standard Pocket Dictionary in 1969 followed by Pradhan's New Standard Dictionary (English - Nepali) in 19701. Moving with the needs of the time the authors compiled and published Pradhan's Students Pocket Dictionary (Nepali - Nepali - English) in 1971 followed by Thulo Nepali Nepali Angrezi Kosh in 1972. These dictionaries satisfied a greatly felt need. In 1988, English-Nepali Dictionary by Babulall Pradhan was published by Trimurti Prakashan. The Dictionary contained 700 pages.

POST 90's

Profound growth in Nepali language and its usage marked the 90's. The inclusion of Nepali in the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution also led to a great boost in the growth of Nepali language. However, sadly, newer Dictionaries have been found to be wanting. The inclusion of non Nepali words in the Dictionaries printed by publishers usually known to publish Hindi Dictionaries has led to the great extent in the dilution of the language. Presently no new Dictionaries are available and students and scholars alike are forced to revert back to the old Dictionaries.

In 1997, Ratna's Nepali English Dictionary by Babulall Pradhan was published by Trimurti Prakashan. The Dictionary was an updated version of the 1988 English Nepali Dictionary by the same Lexicographer. It contained 982 pages.


  1. English-Nepali dictionary by Robert Kilgour, H. C. Duncan, G. P. Pradhan; Published by Asian Educational Services, 1990; ISBN 8120601017, 9788120601017; 393 pages Originally Published by Darjeeling Government Branch Press, 1923.
  2. English-Nepali Dictionary by Babulall Pradhan; Published by Trimurti Prakashan, 1988, 700 pages
  3. Ratna's Nepali English Nepali dictionary by Babulall Pradhan; Published by Trimurti Prakashan, 1997; ISBN 0785574875, 9780785574873; 982 pages


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