Add new dictionaries to your Mac

2 November 2015, 02:53


It turns out it’s amazingly easy to add new dictionaries to your Mac for use within the Dictionary app and, therefore, across the entire system.

The key is the DictUnifier app, which converts dictionary files in the popular and open source StarDict dictionary file format for use on your Mac – and even installs them for you.

Let’s take a look at using DictUnifier to add a dictionary of acronyms.

  1. Download DictUnifier at the link above (click the link headed “Download it from GitHub releases”), and add it to your Applications list. Note that you might need to right-click it on first running, and select Open.
  2. It’s not hard to find StarDict dictionaries via Google. I’d suggest you look here, for example. We’re interested in the Acronyms dictionary, which is in the Misc listing of that site. Download this dictionary file but DON’T unzip or unpack it. Leave it as a .tar.bz2 archive.
  3. Drag and drop the dictionary file you downloaded onto the DictUnifier window. You’ll be prompted to type a name for the dictionary, and something like “Acronyms” will do fine. Click Start when you’re happy.
  4. Conversion and installation will start and could take a while, or could take seconds depending on how large the file is. You can close DictUnifier when it’s finished.
  5. Open the OS X Dictionary app and then open its preferences dialog box (tap Cmd+comma). Your new dictionary should be listed at the bottom. Put a check in it to make it active.

To remove dictionaries you’ve added, you’ll need to close the Dictionary app, then use a Finder window to browse to ~/Library/Dictionaries (tap Shift+Cmd+G to open the Go To dialog box in Finder). Then drag the .dictionary file to the Trash.

Remember that within the Dictionary app’s preferences dialog box you can drag the individual Dictionary entries up or down, so that the results you see are reordered.

Let me know in the comments of any useful or curious dictionaries you find!

[With thanks to the James Somers’ blog for showing this is possible!]

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