Practical tips for developing your own personal dream dictionary and potential hazards to avoid.
If you regularly interpret your own dreams, it’s worth developing a personal dream dictionary, as it can save you a lot of time in the long run.
In this article we will discover why it is important, how to do it, and potential pitfalls to avoid along the way.
I approach dream interpretation from a biblical perspective. My belief is that our dreams can come from God, and understanding them is best understood within the context of an ongoing relationship with Him.
If you have just come across this post and are new to dream interpretation, it is worth mentioning that dreams are symbolic in nature. You might find it helpful to read Understand your dreams: A bible-based introduction to dream language and my 3 step dream interpretation method to give you a foundation.
What is a dream dictionary?
In any given dream there will be symbols that feature prominently, and we will need to understand them in order to make sense of the dream. Dream symbols include things like:
- People and names
If you are into dreams, the chances are that you have seen the dream dictionaries that are widely available, both on the internet and in book format – that promise to help us understand these symbols.
Dream dictionaries are lists of symbols/elements that could potentially occur in dreams, together with their supposed meanings. There are ones written specifically for Christians (bible based), and ones covering many other approaches to dream interpretation.
Dream dictionaries are lists of symbols that could potentially occur in dreams, together with suggested meanings.
More about understanding dream symbols…
Dreams symbols are personal
It is vital to understand that dreams are personal. There is no ‘one size fits all’ meaning for dream symbols. That is why dream dictionaries and advice from other websites can be so confusing. What a dream element means for another person could be totally different from what it means for you.
There are some pros and cons of using a dream dictionary compiled by someone else – i.e. not by yourself:
- A dream dictionary written by someone else can kick-start metaphorical thinking by providing examples when we are stuck for ideas, or new to dream interpretation.
- Some dream symbols are fairly universal in meaning, so having someone else’s ideas can be helpful in those cases.
- Some Christian dream dictionaries contain biblical meanings, which can be useful.
- But dreams are personal, so someone else’s suggested meanings might not apply to our particular dream anyway.
- Relying on a dream dictionary written by someone else can hinder our personal growth as a dream interpreter, if it stops us thinking more deeply about the symbol or listening to God for ourselves.
Why keep a personal dream dictionary?
There are distinct advantages to compiling our own personal dream dictionary. This is a record of symbols that have appeared in our own dreams, and what we think they have meant in them.
A personal dream dictionary is a list of symbols that have appeared in your own dreams, and what you think they meant in them.
If you interpret your dreams regularly, you will notice that certain symbols – like people and places you know, plus other common elements – regularly appear in your dreams.
If you record what you think it has meant in your dreams in a central place, then when that symbol appears in another dream you can look it up in your master list. This is something that has to be established over time – but doing it can save you a lot of time in the future.
How to compile a personal dream dictionary
There are some practical steps to take when building your personal dream dictionary/list.
Decide where to record your list
When I first started out with dreams, I had all my dreams in a handwritten notebook – with a list of symbols at the back! That shows how long ago I started; it served its purpose at the time. You could do that too.
These days I use OneNote (a notetaking app) to record my dreams because it automatically syncs across all my devices. It means I can record my dream on my laptop or tablet in the morning, but then review it on my phone if I’m out somewhere and have a bit of spare time.
Therefore, I use the same app to store my dream symbol list; I find it useful to have my list handy when I’m interpreting my dreams. But you could use any note-taking app or spreadsheet to store your list.
If you can, I would recommend storing both your dreams and your personal dictionary electronically, because it is easy to add items alphabetically or search for specific words later.
Researching ideas for your dream symbol list
When I first started interpreting dreams, I looked for as many potential dream symbol meanings as I could find – mostly from teaching resources – and compiled them all into a master list on my computer! In those days it was not easy to find dream dictionaries online and I was desperate for ideas. I do still have that list, although I don’t refer to it very often anymore.
Nowadays there are many dream dictionaries available, both in book form and online, so there is no shortage of ideas. You can find some recommended ones in my resources post. The hard part is discerning whether any of the suggestions actually apply to your dream!
Consequently, there is no longer any need to keep a massive dream symbol list. I suggest just starting your personal list and adding to it gradually as you interpret your own dreams.
Understanding your dream symbols
A symbol is only relevant in the context of the whole dream. Therefore, it is important to interpret the whole dream before coming to a conclusion about what a particular symbol means in it.
It is important to interpret the whole dream before come to a conclusion about what an individual symbol means in it.
With that in mind, I have written some good articles that explain in details some of the practical steps in the dream interpretation process. Here is a link to the main ones:
God sometimes seems to use the first appearance of a dream symbol to set the meaning of that symbol in subsequent dreams. In my experience this is most commonly relevant for people who appear in our dreams, but can also apply to other things like places, buildings and even objects. This can be very helpful for compiling our dream dictionary.
I have also identified 10 questions to help us think in more detail about individual dream symbols. If you need more help, check out the detailed article by clicking the image below:
Adding to your dream symbol list
Once you have interpreted your dream and feel fairly sure what an element means in it – or have at least narrowed it down to a few ideas – take the time to add it to your personal dictionary. It does take a bit of extra time, but it’s worth it.
You will probably already be thinking that if the symbol crops up in another dream you could just carry out a search for it then. That is true: You could do that; I sometimes do. But it usually means trawling through a load of saved dreams and I find it’s not the most time-effective way.
So now, whenever a meaning resonates with me, and I feel fairly confident about what it means in a particular dream, I note it down as a potential meaning in my personal dictionary.
Some useful symbols to keep handy
Although we must be careful not to become too rigid about dream symbol meanings, I have found that some elements are fairly consistent – and are useful to keep handy as reference lists.
I have separate pages for each of these in my notetaking app:
- Numbers: I find that numbers are fairly consistent in dreams, and I keep a basic bible-based list of meanings to hand. I use that as a starting point – although the meaning in it doesn’t always apply. I add other numbers that appear in my dreams and what I think they meant, plus additional meanings for existing numbers.
- Colours: Colours are also fairly consistent, although there can be personal and cultural variations. I treat them the same way as numbers: Start with a bible-based list, then adapt it by adding personal, cultural and other meanings as you go.
- Names: I have The Name Book by Dorothy Astoria saved on Kindle, so I can always look up a name meaning.
- People: People in dreams can mean so much more than just the name meaning. Check out Dream symbols: People for more ideas. I keep a list of people I know (friends, family members, colleagues, etc.) and what they have represented in my dreams.
Use these lists as a starting point, and add to them when you identify what they mean in your particular dream.
Example of a personal dream dictionary
This is a screenshot of my dream diary and dictionary in OneNote.
You can see that I have a new notebook each year (this one is called Dreams 2021), and a section within that for each month – where I record all my dreams. I also have a section for my Dream dictionary, and different pages within that for different types of symbols.
There is also a page called Dream dictionary, which is all the general symbols that are not in any of the other categories like Numbers or Colours.
It is very easy to add to this list – and also easy to copy the dream dictionary section across to my new notebook each year, so I always have it to hand when I’m working on my dreams.
Hazards of using your dream dictionary
If you interpret dreams regularly, it is easy to become complacent and assume a dream element always means the same thing. That’s a big mistake – and one that has caught me out many times!
- Sometimes the meaning of a dream symbol changes as life moves on: Someone who was your current boss suddenly becomes your old boss; your new car becomes your old car; a husband or wife becomes your ex; a friend becomes the love of your life; and so on! When that happens, the meaning of that specific element in your dreams will probably change accordingly.
- The meaning can vary from dream to dream: An element can mean one thing in one of your dreams, and a different thing in another – even though nothing has changed!
- Sometimes a meaning suddenly changes: Sometimes a symbol that has meant the same thing in your dreams for ages can suddenly change meaning!
There is no easy way around this! Sometimes I think God does it on purpose to keep us on our toes – and to keep us talking to Him!
So, even if you are fairly confident about a symbol in your dictionary, always check whether it makes sense with the dream you are currently interpreting.
If the meaning of an element changes, or you discover a different potential meaning, you can update your dream dictionary by adding the new information as potential meanings.
We have learnt that dreams are personal: What symbols mean to us can be different to what they mean to other people – and different to the suggested meanings in the widely available dream dictionary books and websites.
Therefore it is good to develop an electronic list of what symbols mean to us personally. Doing so can save a lot of time with future dreams, and is worth it if we have already put time and effort into the interpretation process; don’t let that work be wasted!
There are some common symbols that are useful to have in easily accessible lists, such as:
- Name meanings
- People we know
However, even the meanings of symbols in our own dreams can vary from dream to dream, and change over time. So we must always double check whether our saved meaning still makes sense for the dream we are currently working on.
So why not have a go at starting your own personal dream symbol list, and see how you get on? Leave a comment if you do!
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I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to know more, do subscribe to emails to receive regular dream interpretation tips.
The purpose of this blog is to provide solid biblical foundations for interpreting dreams, change mindsets in the church, and encourage others to make their own dream journey. I am primarily a writer and bible teacher – who loves dreams, and I hope you will be inspired to learn to interpret your own dreams.
It is not currently my aim to routinely engage in dream interpretations or provide training, except through writing blog posts. You can read my most up to date position on interpreting dreams here: Requests for dream interpretations.
If you have benefited from my articles and/or my help with dream interpretation and would like to show your appreciation, please consider making a donation.
Thank you very much for your support!
A simple introduction to the dream interpretation process in 3 easy-to-remember steps.
How to understand dream symbols: 10 questions to help identify their meaning, plus real dream examples.
Why it is important to remember what God has said to you – and how to do it by keeping a summary list of dreams.
- Dream interpretation and the bible: Knowing God’s heart and ways
- Dream symbols: Teeth and what they mean
- Why January is a good time to review your dreams
- New year reflection: Do you see what I see?
- Why biblical dream interpretation is like solving a wordle puzzle