• Marion Bazzoli

A translator’s tools: how to find the right word

A translator's job is to find the right word
One aspect of a translator's work: to find the right word, for the right context (Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay)

One of the aspects of a translator’s work is to find the right word, for the right context. Here is an overview of the tools I use.


Although translators have an excellent knowledge of the languages they translate from (in my case, English and Italian), they can’t know all the words and expressions a language counts, especially when we think of the different meanings they can have according to the context. That is why dictionaries are essential.

For my part, I find both paper and online dictionaries useful.

Dictionaries are one of the main translators' tools
Dictionaries are an one of translators' main tools (Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay)

To look general words up, I use the following online dictionaries:

- Larousse (English-French, Italian-French and monolingual French);

- WordReference (English-French);

- the Proz.com search tool (Proz.com is a website dedicated to translators and translation agencies);

- the Oxford, Collins and Merriam-Webster dictionaries for English;

- the Treccani, Garzanti Linguistica and the dictionary from the journal Corriere della Sera for Italian.

I also use the French online dictionary Tonitraduction, a tool that is useful to to find the right collocation, as well as a paper version of Le Robert’s French dictionary for synonyms and nuances.

For technical words, some authoritative resources are available online:

- Termium, the Government of Canada’s terminology and linguistic data bank;

- The Grand Dictionnaire Terminologique, a data bank of terminological sheets created by the Office québécois de la langue française;

- The IATE (standing for Interactive Terminology for Europe), EU's terminology database.

Concerning lifestyle and fashion terminology, two tools are essential to me:

- the paper Trilingual Glossary of Fashion & Textile by Marie Oneissi and Bona Prat;

- an online visual dictionary available in French, English and Spanish, really useful for clothing items.

My copy of the Trilingual Glossary of Fashion & Textile dictionary
My copy of the Trilingual Glossary of Fashion & Textile dictionary

Online research

Search engines (primarily Google) are inexhaustible sources of information. We need to know how to use them correctly and to recognize which websites are trustworthy, without forgetting to double-check the information found. Usually, I rely on:

- brands’ websites (ideally natively written in French ̶ or at least from reliable companies);

- sewing and textile enthusiasts, who use the right terminology (plus, they often put illustrations, which help make sure this is indeed the information we are looking for);

- influential blogs about fashion/lifestyle, which usually count numerous articles with thorough explanations, descriptions, and even sometimes glossaries.

Never stop reading

A good translator will regularly read about his/her specialty field, to stay informed and to keep up with new trendy words. I had already written about some of my vegan readings in a previous article.

Most relevant information are written in English, which is why the majority of references I give come from English sources. Yet, my work implies that I also keep up with my native language, French. There are a few websites available regarding veganism, but not many focus on vegan fashion and lifestyle. By the way, if you know about some of them (in English, Italian or French), feel free to let me know!

To sum up

Vegan and cruelty-free terminology is a young field, so it is important to use the right tools in the right way. Thankfully, we can also count on conventional fashion and lifestyle terminology, as well as on the latest information about new trends and technologies in this sector.