Now in its fourth edition, this Arabic to English dictionary has come to be hand in hand with any aspiring Arabist.
Originally a German dictionary, it was created by Hans Wehr in 1960. A skilled musician, Wehr went deaf and was unable to continue in this passion of his. Thus, he turned to the compilation of an Arabic dictionary. His intention was, as he states in his preface, to "present the vocabulary and phraseology of modern written Arabic. It is based on the form of the language which, throughout the Arab world from Iraq to Morocco, is found in the prose of books, newspapers, periodicals and letters. This form is also employed in formal public address, over radio and television, and in religious ceremonial."
The achievement of Wehr is significant because it is a most successful attempt at finding a cohesion between what are a great number of "languages". The Arabic language varies far more wildly than in many other languages according to geography and region, as well as according to social factors such as wealth and education. This is to some degree becoming less true as a fruit of globalisation; the media, through the internet, newspapers and satellite television has given rise to a more standardised Arabic, which is literary, and may be widely understood, although it has very little conversational use.
In its Arabic to English form, the dictionary attempts to offer all things to all users. It is acute in pointing out vocabulary unique to certain areas of the Arab world, and is not shy of technical terminology, nor of idiomatic expression. This is not to go so far as to deem it specialised; rather it provides a wide range of vocabulary, ordered logically on the principle of the Arabic consonantal system (ie it is not alphabetical as the English speaker would see it).