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As a writer, one of the most important applications I use in Mac is Dictionary (Applications → Dictionary.app). And, as the citizen of a country where English is a foreign language, I always wish to be able to add my own language to the Dictionary so I can quickly and easily translate between the languages.

“Be careful of what you wish, it may come true.” That statement is wise indeed. Especially when you wish upon a search engine named Google. I found out that adding other languages to Apple Dictionary is a snap.

Activating Other Built In Dictionaries on your Mac

First and foremost, let’s explore the Dictionary.app before we go too far. It turns out that Dictionary in Leopard already comes with six built in dictionaries plus access to Wikipedia as online reference.
Wait a minute, six? Most people thought there are only three: New Oxford American Dictionary, Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus, and Apple Dictionary.

But if you go to Dictionary’s Preferences (Dictionary → Preferences or simply hit the Command + Comma button), you will have checklist options to activate another three: Japanese, Japanese-English, and Japanese Synonyms. (As to why Apple add built in Japanese dictionaries to Dictionary, you have to ask Apple directly.)

Another less-known feature that also can be activated here is Wikipedia search on another non-English language. Just select the Wikipedia from the list, and then look at the option panel that will show up below it. There are several choices of languages to be chosen by giving tick to the box, but user can add one more language from the drop down lists.

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After closing the Preferences window and restarting the Dictionary, you can see the full list of new active dictionaries.

Adding External Dictionaries

The first logical step to add more dictionaries is to search for ready-made “.dict” file. You can accomplish this by going to download sites or directly to google and seach “Apple Dictionary plugin” and/or “.dict”. There are several dictionaries available such as OpenThesaurus German Dictionary Plugin and Thai-English translation dictionary.

But you can go further by converting other ready-made dictionary format files and translate them into Apple Dictionary’s format. The steps are:

First: acquire the dictionaries

    1. Go to StarDict and choose one or more of the many available dictionaries.

    2. You can also go to the StarDict online dictionary.

    3. Choose the source and destination language.

    4. A link or links will show up and when you click on one of them, a pop up window will appear with the download link of the dictionary.

    5. Choose as many or as little dictionaries as you need.

Second: Convert the dictionaries

To convert the dictionaries that we’ve downloaded into something that could be opened by Apple Dictionary App, we need DictUnifier.

    1. Download the installer and run it.

    2. Choose (one of) the dictionary file(s) that you’ve downloaded.

    3. Click “Convert”.

    4. The conversion process will take from about several seconds to a few minutes.

    5. After finish converting, the converted dictionary will automatically exported to Apple Dictionary, and the Dictionary app will be opened.

Simple enough, but please note that some users reported that DictUnifier can not convert several StarDict’s dictionary. If this is the case, just remember to put the same name in the Dictionary Name and Dictionary ID fields.

Finally, you can learn more about Apple Dictionary and how to build your own dictionary by going to Apple’s Dictionary Services Programming Guide.

Do you have other favorite dictionary application? Share using the comment below.

  1. Ahmed
    April 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Do not buy it. very few words and very rude developer as one asks him for a refund. I do not recommend it.

  2. Vaclav Slavik
    January 23, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    I have made an app that you may find useful given how hard it is to find good dictionaries. It contains translation dictionaries for (currently) 44 languages that are based on a good source (Wiktionary) and look good in Yosemite and El Capitan (unlike many old or stardict-based ones). It's called Dictionaries and is at https://dictionaries.io

    • Jorge Diaz
      February 22, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      Loved it! And happily paid for it, good job!

    • dwe
      June 7, 2016 at 10:24 pm

      can get Burmese dictionary also?

    • Vaclav Slavik
      June 17, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Seems that it’s possible. It should appear in the app shortly if I don’t run into unexpected problems. Please get in touch by email (see homepage) if you want to discuss the details.

  3. michael dematties
    January 13, 2015 at 8:59 am

    This no longer works. Stardict has chnaged its interface

  4. Anonymous
    January 3, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    RE: 5. After finish converting, the converted dictionary will automatically exported to Apple Dictionary, and the Dictionary app will be opened.
    Simple enough, but please note that some users reported that DictUnifier can not convert several StarDict’s dictionary. If this is the case, just remember to put the same name in the Dictionary Name and Dictionary ID fields.

    And in some cases, even that doesn't work. I just spent over three fruitless hours trying to add the stardict Webster's 1913 dictionary to my Mac. Thanks for your efforts, though.

  5. Christopher Honey
    February 14, 2010 at 6:31 am

    All You gotta Do Is deselect the "script" checkbox!!!!!

  6. Maria
    October 29, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    PERFECT!!! Got the file from stardict.org and converted it.. It was very easy and IT WORKED!!! THANK YOU!!!!!!!

  7. Anton
    August 20, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    I would like to grab all the words I've made my dictionary learn (I'm a social scientist, so we have loads of silly long jargon words, and we make up more all the time). Once grabbed, I'd like to then import them into the dictionaries on the three other macs I use regularly... Any ideas?

  8. j-hing
    August 6, 2009 at 1:55 am

    The whole of this so-called method to add a dictionary DOES NOT work at all.

    It opens Dictionary with the names of the dictionaries in it, but they do not work "Format not supported" is all that you get for any search word you try.

    So please don't waist your time !!

  9. lilyyukilove
    July 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    thanks anyway. i've searched this method and many of them proved it's useful .

    however, after converted the files successfully (.tar.bz2), i have not seen anything in the dictionary, as well as in the dictionary file (/library/dictionaries). i have no idea what happened.

    any solutions?

  10. Samuel WÃ¥hlstedt
    May 22, 2009 at 11:56 am

    I have the real academia española (Rae) in a dict format for debian if somone knows how to convert it to stardict i would be more than happy to share it..

    also put up a file on piratebay with 150 stardict lexicons

    thepiratebay.org/torrent/4902129/babylon_stardict

    • K
      December 7, 2009 at 6:22 pm

      @Samuel
      just put in mediafire.com and I'll be glad to give it a try
      cheers

    • samuel WÃ¥hlstedt
      February 14, 2010 at 8:39 am

      @k here is my mail samuel.wahl@gmail.com . send a message and i mail you the file(s)
      cheers
      samuel

  11. glenn
    May 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I went thru the full routine, but when I tried to make DictUnifier put quick_italian-english into my dictionary, nothing happened [DictUnifier reports "script / not supported
    script / not supported"]. BTW, when I downloaded the .tar file and unstuffed it, DU wouldn't allow me to choose the files generated, but following the imagine in the instructions, I pointed DU at the .tar file, and viola, it seemed to go into the .tar file for what it lists as "quick_italian-english" for "Dictionary" and for Dictionary ID. Needless to say, I'm screwing up something. Suggestions?

  12. sd
    May 10, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Great!
    One can also browse available StarDict dictionaries on (sourceforge.net/project/showfiles.php?group_id=80679) their SourceForge repository... Just search after *.tar.bz2 files...

    • Gilberto
      May 10, 2009 at 3:56 pm

      Thanks. I actually meant Spanish definitions!!! StarDict has several very useful bilingual dictionaries involving Spanish, as well as a couple of Spanish Grammar dictionaries. But an open source Spanish definitions dictionary is needed as well.

  13. Gilberto
    May 8, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    I've been searching for a spanish.dict dictionary for over a year now, and haven't managed to find one. This really sucks. I'm stuck to using the rae widget dictionary, but I have to depend on the internet for that.

  14. Alex
    April 20, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Thank you Jeffry but I'm looking for a .dict file in order to add it to the Apple Dictionary, or at the very least one that doesn't cost $25 which is what the Apimac one costs.

    Hopefully someone will find a better option...

  15. Jeffry Thurana
    April 20, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    This is the best that I could find:
    http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/home_learning/englishspanishdictionary.html

    Maybe other can help?

  16. Alex
    April 20, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I'm also looking for a Spanish one! It's ridiculous: such an important and widely used language and its dictionary (.dict file) is nowhere to be found. HELP!!!

  17. Pedro Cassian
    April 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Can´t seem to find a spanish .dict on stardict, and the persian one downloaded in .rpm which could not be converted in dictunifier.

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