Learning Tools Part II – Dictionaries

Continuing with the expose of our blog’s learning tools, I move on to Part II: Dictionaries.

I’ll admit, albeit a bit embarrassedly, that I love dictionaries. Although I am not one to sit down and read one cover-to-cover, I do enjoy a well put-together dictionary. In order to learn Chinese, it never hurts to thumb through a physical dictionary and reinforce stroke-orders, pinyin, and radicals, but in this day and age, digital dictionaries are king. Here are a few of our favorites, and feel free to get back to me on yours.


Physical dictionaries are my favorite, but digital are much easier to use.


Dictionaries are key for continued study of a language. Beyond print copies, there are many electronic options, both online and in the mobile space. An iPod Touch, iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, or Palm all serve as ideal platforms for mobile dictionaries. Here are some of the favorites of the Lotus staff.

Despite being self described as a “cool word space always ahead of the competition,” nciku (pronounced n-cíkù) is a great place for both beginner and advanced learners of Chinese. The site’s video notes section provides video explanations for Chinese words with similar meanings. Dictionary notes provides a way for the community to give explanations about tricky subjects and give back to the project.


Pleco, the best option for a digital dictionary

PlecoDict: Arguably the best mobile dictionary available. With apps for iPhone, Windows Mobile, and Palm, it is very usable and comes with a free set of basic dictionaries. It is further expandable with paid dictionaries for advanced users.

A Chinese based dictionary with extensive English to Chinese capabilities. Also has many community tools, but mainly in Chinese.

The dictionary and tools are powerful, but also primarily in Chinese.

Wenlin is a desktop dictionary for advanced users, available for PC and Mac. Although somewhat dated, Wenlin provides extensive background for individual characters, including their origins and seal script forms.