Bible Concordance vs Bible Dictionary: What’s the Difference?


Studying the Bible is made easier when readers have access to certain tools, which help explain and simplify Scripture. Two resources that many people find helpful are Bible concordances and Bible dictionaries.

A Bible concordance provides an alphabetical listing of every word in Scripture, so people can easily find all the verses that contain a particular word. A Bible dictionary is an alphabetical listing of key words found in Scripture along with their definition, so people can learn their meaning.

For example, a Bible concordance lists all the verses in which the word “love” is found, while a Bible dictionary explains the meaning of “love” according to the Bible. Keep reading to learn more.

Bible study
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15

Bible concordances and dictionaries

Bible concordances and dictionaries are two of the most common tools that people use when studying the Bible because they are so helpful. Some Study Bibles even contain concise concordances and dictionaries in the back of the book, so readers can easily perform word studies.

To discover which Study Bibles contain these tools, see the Study Bible Comparison Chart to compare dozens of volumes.

Bible ConcordancesBible Dictionaries
Purpose: tells readers where (chapter and verse) certain words are used in the BiblePurpose: tells readers the meaning of words based on their use in Scripture
Organization: alphabetical listingOrganization: alphabetical listing
Does it list every word? “Exhaustive” concordances list every word, even “a,” “and,” “but,” “the” and so on. “Concise” concordances list key words only/Does it list every word? No. Dictionaries often list key words, like “love,” “apostle,” and “wisdom,” but not prepositions (e.g. “and”) or articles (e.g. “the”)
Tip for using: Use a concordance that aligns with whatever English translation you are using (e.g. NIV, KJV, ESV, NASB, etc.)Tip for using: one-volume dictionaries are sufficient for most people, yet there are multi-book dictionaries, some of which exceed 10 volumes

There are many different types of Bible. See Reference Bible vs Regular Bible: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Top 5 Bible concordances

Title / DescriptionCoverCheck price
The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible; works with any translationNew Strong's Exhaustive ConcordanceAmazon
The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance; covers every word in the NIV, 1,600+ pagesNIV Exhaustive Bible ConcordanceAmazon
The Strongest NASB Exhaustive Concordance; Over 400,000 entriesStrongest NASB bible concordanceAmazon
ESV Exhaustive Concordance; more than 340,000 entriesESV Exhaustive ConcordanceAmazon
KJV Super Giant-Print Dictionary & Concordance; giant printKJV concordance and dictionaryAmazon
The Strongest Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance; classic version with larger typeStrongest Strong's Exhaustive ConcordanceAmazon
Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible; Over 300,000 entriesYoung's Analytical Bible ConcordanceAmazon

Also see Study Bible vs Regular Bible: What’s the Difference? to learn more.

Top 5 Bible dictionaries

Title / DescriptionCheck price
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament WordsAmazon
Strong’s Concise Concordance And Vine’s Concise Dictionary Of The BibleAmazon
The New Unger’s Bible DictionaryAmazon
Zondervan Illustrated Bible DictionaryAmazon
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible DictionaryAmazon
New Bible DictionaryAmazon
NIV Dictionary of the BibleAmazon

For even more Bible concordances, see What’s a Bible Concordance? which includes a comparison chart.

Bible concordance: example entry

If a person wanted to do a biographical study on Aaron, Moses’ brother, they would look his name up in the “A” section of a concordance and find a listing similar to this:

AARON (318) [Aaron’s, Aaronic]

Beneath this basic information are the list of occurrences organized according to book title, chapter and verse location, and a few words of context. Often, only the first letter of the subject is printed and the letter is in bold type.

Ex. 4:14 “What about your brother, A the Levite?      195
Ex. 4:27 The Lord said to A, “Go into the desert        195
Ex. 4:28 Then Moses told A everything                      195

Some concordances provide an additional number (e.g. “195”) that corresponds with a Hebrew or Greek dictionary, also called a lexicon. If this is the case, the introduction to the concordance will explain what lexicon the numbers are associated with.

If someone looks up the number in the proper lexicon, they will be able to read the Hebrew or Greek definition of the word without having any knowledge of those languages.

Bible dictionary: example

If a person wanted to study the word “manna,” they would turn to the “M” section in a Bible dictionary and find an entry like this:

The entry for “manna” in this Bible dictionary provides the language of origin – Hebrew; the pronunciation – man-hu; the literal meaning of the word – “What is that?”; followed by how the word is used in the bible.

Hebrew. man-hu, “What is that?” the name given by the Israelites to the food miraculously supplied to them during their wanderings in the wilderness ( Exodus 16:15-35 ).

The name is commonly taken as derived from man , an expression of surprise, “What is it?” but more probably it is derived from manan , meaning “to allot,” and hence denoting an “allotment” or a “gift.”

This “gift” from God is described as “a small round thing,” like the “hoar-frost on the ground,” and “like coriander seed,” “of the colour of bdellium,” and in taste “like wafers made with honey.” It was capable of being baked and boiled, ground in mills, or beaten in a mortar (Exodus 16:23; Numbers 11:7).

If any was kept over till the following morning, it became corrupt with worms; but as on the Sabbath none fell, on the preceding day a double portion was given, and that could be kept over to supply the wants of the Sabbath without becoming corrupt.

Directions concerning the gathering of it are fully given (Exodus 16:16-18, Exodus 16:33; Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 8:16).

It fell for the first time after the eighth encampment in the desert of Sin, and was daily furnished, except on the Sabbath, for all the years of the wanderings, till they encamped at Gilgal, after crossing the Jordan, when it suddenly ceased, and where they “did eat of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more” (Joshua 5:12). They now no longer needed the “bread of the wilderness.”

This manna was evidently altogether a miraculous gift, wholly different from any natural product with which we are acquainted, and which bears this name.

The manna of European commerce comes chiefly from Calabria and Sicily. It drops from the twigs of a species of ash during the months of June and July. At night it is fluid and resembles dew, but in the morning it begins to harden.

The manna of the Sinaitic peninsula is an exudation from the “manna-tamarisk” tree (Tamarix mannifera), the el-tarfah of the Arabs. This tree is found at the present day in certain well-watered valleys in the peninsula of Sinai.

The manna with which the people of Israel were fed for forty years differs in many particulars from all these natural products.

Our Lord refers to the manna when he calls himself the “true bread from heaven” (John 6:31-35 ; 4851 -51). He is also the “hidden manna” (Revelation 2:17; Compare John 6:49, John 6:51).

See What is a Devotional Bible? to learn about a Bible study resource intended for daily reading.

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