Webster and Emacs

Yesterday, I mentioned that the 1913 + 1828 Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary that used to be hosted by the University of Chicago appears to be permanently offline. Back in January, I wrote that I had emailed the site asking whether they were planning on putting the dictionary up again. Sadly, I never heard back and the dictionary is still off-line so, as I said yesterday, we have to assume it’s gone for good.

Happily, as I also mentioned, Marcin Borkowski has a nice post on how to get a copy of the dictionary and make it accessible from Emacs. That was always the end goal for me anyway so I spent about 5 minutes following Borkowski’s steps and installed a local copy. I had hesitated before because I didn’t have all the build tools to compile sdcv but since I stopped being stubborn and embraced homebrew, that was no longer a problem.

If you liked McPhee’s method for improving his prose and you want your very own copy of the dictionary that you can access right from Emacs, it’s really easy to get it. Just follow the steps in Borkowski’s post. Even if you’re not an Emacs user, sdcv and the dictionary source will get you a local copy that you can query from the command line. Perhaps there’s a plugin for whatever editor you’re using that can integrate it for you.

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  • I've been using dictionary-mode for years which gives results for several dictionaries including the gcide which is an open source dictionary that includes Webster 1913 dictionary entries -- including quotations. The only drawback is that you have to be online to use it.

    I had put off installing the sdcv version as well until reading this post. Installing sdcv on debian is an apt-get away, and downloading and unpacking the file. I've bound dictionary-search to H-w, and sdcv-search to H-d. It's nice to have sdcv in either case because there are a lot of free stardict dictionaries out there that you can use in addition to Websters. A lot of them are translation dictionaries, to look up a word in say german to get the english translation. I wish there was an english-chinese character dictionary, but I've yet to find one....

    Here is a good place to start:

    So it's well worth the five minutes to do the installation.

    • Ista Zahn

      I tried the sdcv way, there were some formatting problems that annoyed me. I've been using https://github.com/myrkr/dictionary-el. It uses http://dict.org by default, and includes The Collaborative International Dictionary of English (Webster 1913 supplemented with WordNet). It works great. (I'm not sure if "dictionary-mode" refers to the same thing -- if not I recommend checking out dictionary.el.)