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We are only scratching the surface with the built-in OS X Dictionary application. Dictionary is integrated into the system so if you need to define a word while surfing with Safari, all you need to do is select that word and press Command+Control+D. It even works directly in Spotlight without opening the Dictionary application.

If you’ve always wanted to look up another language besides English, you have several options:

  • Add additional language plugins to
  • Use an online dictionary
  • Use a program which acts as a desktop interface for an online dictionary
  • Get a separate translation application

The first option (plugins) is obviously the most convenient for use because then you would get your foreign translations with the hotkey even while using other applications; but it is difficult to find these plugins for Dictionary. There are some, of course; and I have listed them below. You could use DictUnifier to make your own plugin by converting StarDict dictionary files into the format which recognizes (see tutorial here – external link) but it is a tricky procedure and is not recommended for the faint of hearts.

Otherwise, the next three options are just as good although using an online dictionary will require you to be connected to the internet, obviously.

Here are some translation tools which I have found and I hope they prove to be useful to you. All of them translate from the foreign language to English. They are plugins unless stated otherwise. Clicking on the link will download the application.


Arabic Dictionary (8.8MB ZIP)
Alqamoos Almuheet Arabic-Arabic Dictionary (5.8MB DMG)



Atomix Dojam [Independant Application] (13.7MB DMG)
Yazi [Independent Application] (2.1MB ZIP)


Mini Dictionary [Dashboard Widget] (3.3MB ZIP)


Danish-English Dictionary [Independent Application] (3.9MB DMG)


Van Dale [Dashboard Widget] (49KB ZIP)


Mac Translate [Desktop Interface] (944KB ZIP)


BeoLingus German-English (183MB DMG)
OpenThesaurus German (21.6MB DMG) Dictionary Plugin (188MB ZIP)
LEO Dictionary [Dashboard Widget] (25KB ZIP)
Mac Translate [Desktop Interface] (944KB ZIP)


Limon [Independent Application] (373KB ZIP)


SwiftTranslate [Independent Application] (12.5MB ZIP)


De Mauro [Dashboard Widget] (49KB ZIP)
Mac Translate [Desktop Interface] (944KB ZIP)


WORDS Latin Dictionary [Independent Application] (14.3MB DMG)


Mac Translate [Desktop Interface] (944KB ZIP)
*OS X’s Dictionary has already got built-in support for Japanese! To turn this option on, go to the preferences in Dictionary and check the Japanese dictionaries you need.


Polish-English Dictionary [Dashboard Widget] (84KB ZIP)


Mac Translate [Desktop Interface] (944KB ZIP)


Lexikon [Desktop Interface] (99KB ZIP)


Thai Dictionary (40MB ZIP)

Alternatively, you could use StarDict, they have a huge selection of dictionaries but the interface is a little painful to the eyes. Otherwise, TranslateIt! is a very good translation application which is shareware (you can try it for 20 days to see how it is) – if you are trying to translate Russian, this is the tool you need.

How do you get your translations? Do you use any of the applications listed above? How do you find them? Are there any better ones which I should have listed? Let me know in the comments!

(By) Jackson Chung is a full-time medical student attempting to perform a juggling act with relationship, studies and his future.

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  1. Jake
    August 23, 2009 at 11:30 am

    Wondering if you could explain how to install the plugin and how to access it from within Dictionary. I have copied the files to library/dictionaries but cannot access them. I have been unable to find a good 'how to' section on the web. Thanks

  2. tom markham
    April 12, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    I don't even own a Mac, but couldn't help but note the term "cunning linguist". I certainly hope for the sake of literacy that I'm not the first to give you credit for the play on words. And if I thought I could do that with a Mac I would sure as Hell go out and get one today.

  3. required
    January 11, 2009 at 10:01 am

    nice recopilatory but i still wonder why are there so few plugins for the dictionary... i guess the linguistics corporation don't like it too much: very little colours to charge for...

  4. Martin
    July 23, 2008 at 4:47 am

    Thanks, had no idea that could use plugins

    • Jackson
      July 24, 2008 at 10:01 pm

      Sure, that's what we're here for!

  5. johan
    July 22, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Where's the link for the Swedish version?
    edit: nvm, found it in the comments

  6. Jackson
    July 20, 2008 at 6:50 pm