Installing Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary on Ubuntu GNU/Linux

It is interesting how the mind can store away important facts and make them available later.

Last summer, while reading an article by Dr. Drang about Markdown, I stumbled upon a new word, ‘limn’. I almost looked it up but instead allowed my laziness to get the better of me.

After reading the article, I went on to the next feed in my RSS reader (NewsBlur), Gabe Weatherhead’s Macdrifter. The first post that day was an article about using a better dictionary. What does he show in the example image? An image of a dictionary page with the listing for ‘limn’! It also had a very nice jab at Dr. Drang about how a dictionary can act "as a translation guide for communicating with the ancients." Ha!

screenshot of Macdrifter article

Screen capture of Gabe Weatherhead’s Macdrifter article

Gabe’s dictionary post points to a fantastic article titled, "You’re probably using the wrong dictionary" by author James Somers. It is a wonderful read and I highly recommend spending some time absorbing it.

Toward the end of James’ post he provides directions on downloading and using Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (written in 1828 and revised in 1913).

After reading that article, I dutifully followed the instructions and added the dictionary to my mac and never looked back.

Fast forward to today, more than a year later. I happened upon the word ‘Epistemic’ while reading a paper by Krista Muis published in Educational Psychologist. I went directly to my Dictionary app… Oh, right, I’m no longer on a Mac.

My brain instantly recalled the chain of events that led to my downloading and installing the old Webster’s dictionary on my Mac. Now that I’m on a Linux machine I had to have Webster’s 1913 dictionary on my computer. I managed to get everything working. While Webster’s 1913 dictionary did not end up having the definition of ‘epistemic’ it did have the definition of epistemology that got me pointed in the right direction.

In the spirit of sharing, here are the instructions.

Install and use Webster’s 1913 dictionary on Ubuntu GNU/Linux

  • Download the dictionary file from James Somers at this link.
  • Locate the downloaded file and extract the contents.
  • Unzipping will yield two folders:
    • __MACOSX – not needed, delete it
    • dictionary – keep
  • Navigate into dictionary and unzip the file named stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2.tar.bz2.
  • The resulting folder stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2 is your new dictionary folder.

Now you need a dictionary app to read the dictionary folder you just set up. I recommend that you download GoldenDict from the Ubuntu Software Center.

Follow these instructions in GoldenDict to get the Webster’s dictionary up and running:

  • Press the F3 key (or Edit –> Dictionaries…) to get the Dictionaries preference pane
  • Click on the ‘Add…’ button.
  • Navigate to the stardict-dictd-web1913-2.4.2 folder, highlight it, and click on the ‘Open’ button.
  • Click the ‘OK’ button.

Enjoy using your new dictionary.


Screen capture of GoldenDict on Ubuntu GNU/Linux

Thanks, Dr. Drang, for using such an seldom used word that triggered this adventure.

If all of this is too much for you, the dictionary can also be viewed online.

2 thoughts on “Installing Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary on Ubuntu GNU/Linux

  1. joeri

    A expression of gratitude; an acknowledgment expressive of a
    sense of favor or kindness received; obligation, claim, or
    desert, or gratitude – for providing these instructions

  2. joeri

    (And by the way, the first thing I looked up in this dictionary was “epistemology” – I just reread and figured it’s almost the same. What a coincidence.)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.