Longing for a 124 Years Old Punjabi Dictionary

Let me tell you a story. The story of acquiring a 36 year old copy of a long out-of-print Punjabi dictionary that originated in 1890’s Lahore.

It starts with the establishment of Christian Mission at Ludhiana in 1837. They were the first institution to publish the English-Punjabi (1849) and the first Punjabi-English (1854) dictionaries. Although basic, they set the stage for later work in the field.

Those dictionaries, although pioneering in the field, were nevertheless compiled by non-natives of the land, i.e. the British missionaries.

The first major and methodical Punjabi to English dictionary was attempted by one Bhai Maya Singh. It was published in 1895 from Lahore and contained about 40,000 Punjabi words.

Encyclopedia of Indian Literature, Vol 2, Page 1032

Bhai Maya Singh’s dictionary was truly a monumental work. In so far that it has been used as basis for most later Punjabi dictionaries.

The only problem with it, from the perspective of someone reading and writing in the Shahmukhi script, was that it listed the words in Gurmukhi (in addition to the Roman).

Also, as you can imagine, it is no longer available in print. I thought the pdf from http://archive.org  was going to be the only way I was going to ever get in touch with this dictionary. Except that I was wrong. Thanks to two guys of which you have probably heard of one, Najam Sethi.

After establishing Vanguard Books in 1978, publishing Bhai Maya Singh’s dictionary for the Shahmukhi readership was probably one of the first projects they commissioned in 1980.

Maqsood Saqib, a one-man army associated with Punjabi language, literature, and publishing for more than four decades now, was selected by Vanguard Books for the project.

It took him 3 years but Bhai Maya Singh’s dictionary in Shahmukhi script was finally reprinted in 1983 from Lahore again. 88 years after the first publication. I wouldn’t have known this if Maqsood Saqib sb hadn’t posted about it on his Facebook a few days ago.

Unsure if I will find the 1983 edition, I mailed Vanguard Books a couple of days ago asking if they had a copy and if they would be kind enough to send it. They had a copy. “But the jacket is torn, sir” “Send it!!!” I must have been very excited.

That’s how I finally got my hands on one of the books I was longing for.


Mohsin Ali Awan March 12, 2019 Reply

Hi. I’ve been regular visitor to now defunct folk Punjab. Any chance you could upload the archives to online drive?

Also, how good is this dictionary compared to Sardar Muhammad dictionary? Is there a soft copy of the dictionary in Shah Mukhi script?

Sohail Abid March 25, 2019

I am afraid it won’t be possible to upload it publicly, Mohsin.

As for the dictionary, both are basically different for this one is Punjabi to English while Sardar sb’s is Punjabi to Urdu. But if that’s not a concern, then this only suits someone interested in the language and dictionary research, for all other purposes Sardar sb’s dictionary should suffice.

There’s no soft copy of this version, as far as I am aware.

khalil March 25, 2019 Reply

Bhai jee please, if there is a soft copy of this dictionary, upload it or is there a way i can get a copy this dictionary or buy it from somewhere?

Also as Mohsin said, can you please upload the archives to some online drive?

Sohail Abid March 25, 2019

No soft copy, as far as I know. You could, however, contact Maqsood Saqib’s publishing house —Suchet Kitab Ghar— at Chowk Ganga Ram, Lahore. They might have a copy.

Keran April 23, 2019

Hi how can we in London UK get hold of the new Panjabi dictionary?

Muhammad Usman April 2, 2019 Reply

Sir i visited your site folkpunjab for music quite often, but now it isn’t functional, will we see all the audio kalaam on web again or not? please reply.

Naresh khokha May 19, 2019 Reply

Hi Abid, this is naresh khokha from delhi, my parents migratedfrom shekh pura, now in pakistan. I love punjabi and I always speak punjabi with my mother and anut and uncle who are presently in the age of late 70s. My children speak in hindi. Could you please suggest any dictionary translating punjabi in hindi.
I would like to keep in touch with you.

Uzair Ahmed May 20, 2019 Reply

Dear Sir Salam Alikum.
Can You Please Share Your Office Contact Number.

*Its Regarding Folk Songs Poetry.

Zahid Hashmat April 9, 2020 Reply

Happy that other Punjabis are also finding Dictionary in Shah Mukhi. Luckily I got a copy of Vanguard one. But still waiting to get a copy by Sardar Muhammad Sahib published by Punjabi Adabi Board, Lahore. and could not find any other good Punjabi Shahmukhi Dictionary.

Sohail Abid April 12, 2020

Pilac Lahore has published a 7-volume dictionary recently, please do check that out as well.

Taran Sandhu April 30, 2020 Reply

menu shahmukhi seekhni h

Vijaykumar December 25, 2020 Reply

I am looking for a dictionary which will help a person, though brought up in Doaba area of Punjab in India, has been out of touch with Punjabi speaking people for almost 50 years but has now developed a passion for Heer by Waris Shah. Can you help in suggesting the kind of Punjabi-English/Hindi dictionary for understanding the book in letter and spirit.

Muhammad bin Shakil June 30, 2023 Reply

how can i buy it in hard form? and whats the proce range and is delivery possible ?

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