The Firefly French-English Visual Dictionary


586 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 1-55297-950-4
DDC 443'.17





Reviewed by Ronald R. Henry

Ronald R. Henry is director of the School of Translators and
Interpreters at Laurentian University.


There are basically two ways to search for the “right word” in a
dictionary: look up a word already heard or read, or find a good
analogical dictionary containing synonyms. Naturally, this going from
idea to word requires such prior knowledge as can be expected from an
educated person.

Then there is the Visual. This dictionary does not describe; it names.
It does not define; it illustrates. It is not a terminological study of
specialized terms; it is for the general public. It is not a compendium
of literary words; it delivers thousands of technical terms of common
use in the modern world, and it shows us what we are talking about.

The Firefly French–English Visual Dictionary is essentially a revised
edition of Le Visuel (1992), although with English as the first language
and in a smaller, more manageable format. Each of its 28,000 entries is
connected to one of 3,600 colour illustrations, making the finding of
key words or phrases—and their translation—quick and easy. Its
contents are organized into 17 sections (Astronomy, Earth, Vegetable
Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Human Being, Food and Kitchen, House,
Do-It-Yourself and Gardening, Clothing, Personal Adornment and Articles,
Arts and Architecture, Communications and Office Automation, Transport
and Machinery, Energy, Science, Society, and Sports and Games); each
section is further organized into subsections and themes; and each theme
is illustrated (e.g., section: “Human Being”; subsection: Sense
Organ; theme: touch; illustration: a cross-section of skin showing the
epidermis, the dermis, the subcutaneous tissue, and their many parts).

One can skim through the pictures until an object jumps off the page.
Clearly a preferred method, this will allow for the perusal of the 30
leafy vegetables on pages 126–27. Readers seeking a more structured
approach, however, can peruse the detailed table of contents for a
particular section.

All three dictionaries follow the same format; however, the larger The
Firefly Five Language Visual Dictionary features 35,000 entries and
6,000 illustrations, each labelled in the five languages.

One will want to buy these books for the pictures, and to find the
names of all kinds of things, creatures, and processes. Indeed, flipping
the pages can be addictive.


Corbeil, Jean-Claude, and Ariane Archambault., “The Firefly French-English Visual Dictionary,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,