What are the official rules (or conventions or guidelines) used by French dictionaries to determine the order in which entries are listed?

If I look at some entries in the online Dictionnaire de l’Académie française, I see the following examples:

For the word cote, I see a section which displays the following "Voisinage Alphabétique":

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Specifically, I see the following words in the following order:


Assuming these words are sorted alphabetically, then the rule appears to be that accents are evaluated from the end of the word to the start of the word - and that unaccented letters are sorted before accented letters.

Is this the standard French way of sorting words in a dictionary?

(If accents were evaluated from the start of the word, then I would expect the word order to be cote coté côte côté.)

If so, then where are these rules fully defined? I searched in various places in the online Dictionnaire de l’Académie française - for example, in the préfaces, but I did not find any rules or guidelines explaining how words are sorted.

Additional Background

Reason for asking: I have a list of French phrases and terms, similar to what you might find in the index of a text book. I want to know how to sort this list in the most culturally appropriate way for a Francophone audience. My starting point for doing this is to first understand what the "official" rules are for dictionary sorting.

I am aware of discussions such as Unicode Collation Case Study: Sorting French Topic Lists, which mentions:

the problems of French accent weighting (reversed at the secondary level)

A French Wikipedia article also mentions:

La comparaison des caractères accentués se fait alors à l'envers en commençant par la dernière lettre


les diacritiques sont rangés dans l'ordre aigu, grave, circonflexe, tréma.

But there are no citations pointing to any official set of rules (or conventions or guidelines), to support these statements.

  • 1
    I don't think there are of any "official" rules, it's just usage set by the printing History (and I suppose a certain amount of logic). I would expect that the order unaccented, aigu, grave, circonflexe, tréma (very consistent and taught at school) is a mixture of alphabetical order and frequency. I've seen differences from one dictionary to another. Differences can be seen in proper names when they are compound, apostrophes, dashes etc.
    – None
    Commented Feb 12 at 18:50
  • Just found this: Il existe des règles non écrites chez les éditeurs de dictionnaires de langue française pour le tri alphabétique. À l'automne 1986, il nous a été possible d'obtenir ces règles auprès des éditeurs Robert et Larousse, les deux plus grands éditeurs de dictionnaires de la francophonie... (emphasis mine) (Règles du classement alphabétique en langue française et procédure informatisée pour le tri).
    – None
    Commented Feb 12 at 18:55
  • Concerning proper names surnames & geographical names there's the norme AFNOR NF Z44-001. But it is in no way mandatory. Some institutions publish their own guidelines (e.g. l'école des chartes)
    – None
    Commented Feb 12 at 19:07
  • 1
    The TLFi starts at the beginning: cnrtl.fr/portailindex/LEXI/TLFI/C/7200, and sorts words that don't differ by diacritic alone without regard for the diacritic (près is between prérotulien et présage cnrtl.fr/portailindex/LEXI/TLFI/P/7440). Usito suit le même ordre: usito.usherbrooke.ca/index/articles/tous/c#cote Commented Feb 12 at 19:22
  • 1
    Everything is clearly explained in the Unicode Technical Report #10 on the Collation Algorithm (unicode.org/reports/tr10), and your example is illustrated in Table 5.
    – yannis
    Commented Feb 13 at 13:33


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