Eurodicautom is the European Commission’s “multilingual term bank.”

When it was first set up in 1973 the development team drew upon the know-how and lexicographic material of two other tools available to Commission translators: Dicautom, a phrasal automatic dictionary launched in 1964, and Euroterm, a translation dictionary developed in 1962-68. The four original languages of Eurodicautom were Dutch, French, German and Italian, to which Danish and English were added in 1973, Greek in 1981, Portuguese and Spanish in 1986, and Finnish and Swedish in 1995. Latin is also present.

Although originally developed to meet the needs of in-house translators, Eurodicautom soon became useful to other Commission staff and was later adopted by linguists in other European institutions. Today it is an invaluable tool for translators, interpreters, terminologists and other linguists worldwide over the Internet, where it records a daily average of 120.000 enquiries…

Entries are classified into 48 subject fields (ranging from medicine to public administration). A typical entry contains the term itself and its synonyms, together with definitions, explanatory notes, references, etc. At present the term bank contains about five and a half million entries (terms and abbreviations), subdivided into more than 800 collections.

(Via wood s lot, though I’m pretty sure I saw it previously at Transblawg.)

I’m not sure how you’re meant to use it—clarity isn’t a strong point of the European Commission—but what I do is put a word in the query box, click “Terms” under “Display,” click “Select all” under “Target language,” and unclick English. If I put in “stag beetle,” I get:

DE [German]
(1) TERM Feuerschroeter
(2) TERM Hirschkaefer
EL [Greek]
(1) TERM ??????? ? ?????? [lekanos o kervos]
ES [Spanish]
(1) TERM ciervo volante
FI [Finnish]
(1) TERM tammihärkä
FR [French]
(1) TERM cerf-volant
IT [Italian]
(1) TERM cervo volante
LA [Latin]
(1) TERM Lucanus cervus
NL [Dutch]
(1) TERM vliegend hert
SV [Swedish]
(1) TERM ekoxe

Pretty nifty. I must say, ekoxe doesn’t look very Swedish, but the beetle must be pretty well thought of by Swedes, because there’s a QUALITY HOTEL EKOXE in Linköping. And for many more “stag beetle” terms, see Maria Fremlin’s Vernacular and dialect names of Stag Beetles (Lucanus cervus) in various countries, from which you will learn that the Swedish name is ek ‘oak’ + oxe ‘bull’; you will also find well over a dozen German names, the last of which is the cognate Eichochs.

Update (Dec. 2023). To quote Wikipedia, “In 2007, Eurodicautom was replaced by Interactive Terminology for Europe (IATE).” Also, I just noticed that the post title is misspelled. Tsk.


  1. Used to use this in cataloguing European Union materials. I also know a lot of international legal translators for whom this is a good starting point for specialist language. It was better when it was hardcopy – quicker to scan, etc. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a comprehensive dictionary – my understanding was that it focussed on technical language.

  2. Scott Martens makes his living in this kind of thing. Hopefully he’ll show up. He just paged Mr. Hat, btw, on Indo-European stuff.

  3. No, I’ve never written about Eurodicautom. I remember a lecture on it many years ago when it was said the sources of a lot of the material hadn’t been recorded properly so they didn’t intend to copyright it (I just offer this as a vague memory, not a criticism). For some reason I have hardly ever used it, and when I have, it hasn’t helped. When I have translated EU stuff, usually opinions of advocates general (they give the court an opinion to help it decide), I’ve tended to use Celex or Eur-Lex, the websites, calling up a document in German and then switching to English, or downloading both and putting them in dtSearch, to catch very specific terms. But Eurodicautom should be very useful for all kinds of legal terms – you don’t want to invent one yourself without checking what’s around.
    Where was it in wood s lot? There was talk recently of Eurodicautom being refurbished and possibly removed from public use, at which there was a great outcry among translators.
    There’s a Canadian CD called Termium that you probably know of, French and English, a huge collection of materials, millions of words in the references. It’s supposed to be so good it’s useful even just for the English terminology, even if you don’t do French. Mind you, that’s probably more for us non-literary translators who need terminology defined in that kind of way.

  4. I understand the original edition (in hardcopy) started off as in-house only, and the Commission (as it was then) published it with the caveat that it be used ‘as is’ and not as anything authoritative. It is excellent for all those obscure areas of competition law (anti-trust in US terms) in which the EU specializes. There are big gaps, though, when it comes to areas that don’t receive so much attention in EU courts … I still would have preferred a new hardcopy edition instead / as well. The enquiries for which it is most useful tend to start “I have to chair / interpret a multilingual dispute on [insert obscure subject of choice]. Can you pull me up a good basic vocabulary crib-sheet?” How cumbersome to have to run specific searches … It will be interesting to see how the database is expanded for the new countries that have just joined the EU…

  5. MM: Ah, now I remember better — I think it was La grande rousse where I saw it before. It’s in the 05.03 wood s lot as European Terminology Database, between Industrial Drawings from the Smithsonian and “Extra vagance! it depends on how you are yarded.”
    Annie: Thanks for the context; I understand more what it’s up to now.
    zizka: I’ll go answer Scott’s page.

  6. It was probably at La Grande Rousse – I’ve never actually asked, but I suspect we both took classes from André Clas who gushed enthusiastically over it. Eurodicautom has been around for a long time. IIRC it started out as an experimental computerised database for translators at Euratom (the European atomic energy consortium from waybackwhen).
    It is and it isn’t really that important. The terms it contains have no official status and truthfully, they are often quite useless. I looked up for example “frequency converter” – a term I’m using as a litmus test for the term extraction tool I’m working on – and get “convertisseur de fréquence”, while the client database I’m using consistently translates it as “variateur de vitesse”. A search on Google shows that “variateur de vitesse” is used some four times as often as “convertisseur de fréquence”, and that it is therefore probably the better translation – but you’d never know that by checking EuroDicAutom.
    Where it’s most useful for translators is when they’re confronted with a new term, something they’ve never seen before, and have to look up how to translate it. EuroDicAutom may not give them the correct or most widely used translation, but no one ever gets fired for using the government’s term database. So, having such a large database at your fingertips saves you from time-consuming dictionary and corpus searches, even if the answer it gives you is wrong.
    The original logic was that it would ensure consistent translation and usage across European institutions, but the database is really too large to meet that goal. A great many terms go into it, but there isn’t much effort to check how much those terms are actually being used. As neat as huge term databases are, quality control is the real Achilles heel of this concept. Where possible, it’s better to have a small database of known good terms than a big database of terms of unknown quality – although it’s better still to have both. I tend to think of this sort of database as a last-ditch resource – cheaper than original term research and better than making something up, but definitely a source of questionable quality.

  7. Guillem Arener says

    Estimats senyors, un agraïment per la meua part per aquest servei tan útil paer la Comunitat Euroèa i cap un enteniment millor de pobles i també de llengües.
    Per a mi, em sembla molt útil ja que sóc traductor Alemany-Català/espanyol.
    Gràcies per la vostra atenció

  8. For those who lack Catalan, el senyor Arener is expressing his gratitude for Eurodicautom, which he says is very useful both for the European community and for his own work as a translator between German and Catalan/Spanish.
    Gràcies per la vostra visita!

  9. Lars Mathiesen says

    ‘Ek-oxe is transparently “oak ox”, but I agree that the written form invites to a different syllable division and stress, and then it goes weird for Swedish.

    Eghjort [ˈeːjɑɐd̥] in Danish, “oak stag”. The larvae feed on rotting wood, but I don’t know if they prefer oak.

  10. David Marjanović says

    Stag beetles are very much associated with and dependent on oaks, in any case.

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