havaUnlike the more popular Hans Wehr, Hava is a classical Arabic dictionary. Although it does have occasional mistakes, it generally sticks to and gives the correct classical meaning and usage of Arabic words. Where non-classical words are included, they are clearly marked as such.

The Goodword Books edition has about 400 fewer pages than the 4th edition of Hans Wehr, but many more words are included, as the classical lexicon was much greater than the modern. For example, it gives six verbal nouns for the verb wajada (‘to find’), whereas Hans Wehr gives only one. Again, Hava has the classical Arabic verb ḥali`a, which is ‘to be covered in pustules,’ whereas Hans Wehr ignores it altogether, due to its absence from modern Arabic.

As a result, its layout is not as clear as Hans Wehr’s. Also, it usually only gives one or two English equivalents for each Arabic word, which can make the exact meaning of an Arabic word difficult to grasp, whereas Hans Wehr gives a number of English synonyms, which often helps clarify the meaning in any given context.

As this really is a classical Arabic dictionary, don’t expect to find words for ‘car’ or ‘computer’; (sayyārah, which is the modern word for car, is indeed found in the dictionary, but only its classical meanings are given, namely ‘caravan’ or ‘planet’).

But while this dictionary may not be of much help when it comes to modern Arabic, it’s an indispensable aid for the student of classical Arabic. The breadth of classical Arabic language covered by this single-volume dictionary is truly impressive. It also has very few mistakes, which makes it an ideal bedside dictionary for anyone interested in classical Arabic.

In conclusion, Hava is an immensely useful dictionary for someone who is already reasonably adept at reading modern texts, and is trying to make a transition from Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) to Classical Arabic. It is best used in conjunction with Hans Wehr – the former will usually give the correct range of meanings and usages, and the latter will suggest more natural translations of those words into English, and will also guide the student to those words and usages which are still current.