A Free Greek/Latin Reading/Writing Workflow

Online resources can be difficult to use, or at least uncomfortable. Many sites have all the information you need but are not formatted nicely and require the user to make too many repetitive clicks. I want to share a workflow I’ve been using recently that is completely based on online resources and at the same time is both functional and easy on the eyes.

Here are the questions I most frequently ask when reading or going about the day’s work:

  • What does this word mean?
  • What is the lexical form?
  • Is this a frequently occurring word?
  • How do I say it in Latin/Greek?
  • What do the grammars say about this construction?

Below, I’ll highlight free resources to answer each question. My assumption is that you are reading from a print text and you have access to a laptop.

What does this word mean?

Philolog.us offers a beautifully typeset version of LSJ and Lewis and Short, and the user interface is very efficient. To me, “very efficient user interface” means I can operate the site entirely with keyboard shortcuts. Here are some of the reasons I prefer it over other options.

  1. You can choose your lexicon by hitting 1, 2, or 3 on your keyboard.
  2. When you type your word, you don’t have to hit any other keys to look up the word. For example, type constituo and you immediately see the entry.
  3. When you want to look up another word, just hit the esc-key and the search line is cleared and your cursor is readied to type the next word. To me, this is huge.
  4. You can zoom a couple times (command-plus sign) and the site scales appropriately to make the text very readable. Safari will remember your zoom setting.
  5. By clicking the “configure” tab at the top of the site you can change the way various portions of the site are displayed. I have mine set so that glosses are bold, authors are red, and everything else is plain black. The references are blue only because they are hyperlinked — that’s a browser thing, I think.
philolog.us — primary lexica
philolog.us for primary lexica

This is my most used resource so I pin it in Safari first and access it easily by hitting command-1. Here’s more information on how to pin tabs in Safari. The pinned tabs stay put and are ready to go even after closing and reopening Safari.

What is the lexical form?

If you struggle to find the lexical form of a word, you can turn to our less easy on the eyes but reliable Perseus word study tool. One of the nice features of the word study tool is that when you type a form into the search box and hit enter it automatically highlights the form you typed. When you want to look up another word, you are ready to begin typing.

Perseus word study tool for finding the lexical form
Perseus word study tool for finding the lexical form

I pin this tab to Safari and access it with command-2.

Is this a frequently occurring word?

Logeion is the tool for this and much more. Just enter the lexical form and hit enter or select it from the dropdown, and you can clearly see a word’s frequency information just underneath the short definition.

Logeion for frequency statistics
Logeion for frequency statistics

Logeion could be used as a one-stop shop, in place of philolog.us and the Perseus word study tool, but one little UI feature keeps me from turning to Logeion first. When you want to return the cursor to the search field, you have to use the mouse and hover over and click the x at the end of the search field. There is no keyboard shortcut that I can find for clearing the search field and readying the cursor to type another word. This is a small, preference thing. Logeion is a fantastic resources and a great way to get frequency statistics along with a ton of other information.

I pin Logeion as a third tab and access it with command-3.

How do I say it in Latin/Greek?

Finally, there are the composition/discussion scenarios when you need to figure out the best way to say an English word in Latin/Greek. For Greek, this implementation of Woodhouse is stupendous.

Woodhouse for English-Greek
Woodhouse for English-Greek

For Latin, there is nothing I know of that is quite as modern and beautiful. Maybe you all can help me here. Currently, I use this old version of Whitaker.

Whitaker for English-Latin
Whitaker for English-Latin

You could use the version of Smith and Hall at latinitium.com, but the site is too riddled with ads for me.

Update 1: Fergus Walsh, via Twitter, pointed out this cool site: linguax.com for an essentially ad-free Smith and Hall. You can press tab to put the cursor in the search field, type your English, press enter, and see the scanned page of Smith and Hall where your word occurs. This is better than Whitaker because you aren’t just searching for random English glosses. You are searching for head words with in an actual lexicon dedicated to provided the best Latin words for a given English expression.

(When you run your first search on linguax.com, you will see one add, but if you scroll to the bottom and click the “I’ve read everything” button, that’s the last ad you’ll encounter.)

Update 2: Fergus also mentioned Döderlin’s Latin synonyms lexicon at Latinitium. This is a unique resource that can help you work through the various Latin options for expression a concept. Just this week a colleague and I were trying to decide on the best word to use for the particular type of small boat he was describing in a story he was writing. Döderlin’s entry for navis is at least a good place to start.

What about grammars?

If you want to take a quick look at a Latin or Greek grammar, the DCC (Dickinson College Commentaries) website has you covered.

DCC reference works page
DCC reference works page

Four things make accessing grammars on this site a pleasant experience:

  1. They have Allen and Greenough for Latin and Goodell for Greek, which is more clearly organized than Smyth even if not as exhaustive.
  2. The typesetting is very nice.
  3. They include a scan of the print text in case you think the html has a typo.
  4. Most importantly: the table of contents is very easy to navigate. Just hover your mouse over the TOC and a popup shows you the subsections.
DCC for grammars
DCC for grammars

I don’t usually pin the grammars, but I do have a Safari bookmarks for them.

Conclusion

These particular sites and the Safari tab-pinning feature have made my work and everyday reading much easier. There are plenty of commercial software options, but for the basics I find this workflow just as easy on the eyes and sometimes even more convenient and efficient.

Based on the type of questions you are answering on any given day, you can mix and match which sites you pin. For me, sometimes it’s just philolog.us and Perseus, sometimes philolog.us and Logeion, other times just philolog.us. Mix, match, enjoy, and just read!

This is the latest in a series of posts about various ways of reading ancient texts.

Greek Latin