Free Chinese Dictionary for iPhone in the Creative Commons

Today a colleague showed me that what I had hoped for has come true: There is a full-featured, free, Creative Commons licensed dictionary, and there is a good iPhone application to use with it. The dictionary is CC-CEDICT, and the iPhone app DianHua.

A screenshot of the iPhone application from the Dianhua website.
A screenshot of the iPhone application from the DianHua website.

So far (for the last couple of hours) it’s served me well. But I’m quite excited that the dictionary is seemingly relatively good and is also released under a Creative Commons license. That means it’s fair game for developers to use in applications we can’t yet imagine.

The project of building this dictionary, CC-CEDICT, is community-based using the wiki form. It’s wiki has a to-do list, which presently portends the addition of alcohol-related terms and XML terminology.

As with any wiki project, the content is only as good as the contributors. I’ll quote myself paraphrasing my future professor Cass Sunstein’s retelling of the Condorcet Jury Theorem:

The Condorcet Jury Theorem … states in part that in a jury, the probability that the right decision will be reached increases with the size of the jury, but only if the average juror is more likely than not to come up with the right decision on his or her own. If members of a jury are individually less than 50 percent likely get the right answer, then their deliberation magnifies the problem. Groups like these are wrong, Sunstein says, because of prejudices (freedom fries, anyone?), confusion, and incompetence.

But we can do more than hope incompetence, confusion, and prejudice don’t take over this dictionary, and that sufficient community editing keeps madness out of the reasonably robust foundation. We can contribute and edit ourselves! Also, of course, a smart reader of community-generated content knows what to doubt. And with dictionaries, it’s even worth doubting “authoritative” volumes with names like Oxford, Xinhua, and yes, even Webster.





5 responses to “Free Chinese Dictionary for iPhone in the Creative Commons”

  1. Hauke Avatar


    your ap is great. I just downloaded the 1.4.2 version, but I cannot open the draw and search chracter page. Do I have to download something else?


  2. Graham Webster Avatar


    Thanks for reading and be sure to let the app’s creators know you enjoy it! The character drawing function is built into iPhone OS. You can turn it on in Settings > General > International > Keyboards. Click on Chinese (Simplified) or Chinese (Traditional) and turn on “Handwriting.”


  3. Hauke Avatar

    The ap is awsome. It is exactly what I needed.

    thank you for your quick help.


  4. Jimmy Avatar

    Hello I am jimmy, just bought an Apple iPhone 3G. My question is: is there an existing chinese-english or english-chinese dictionery sofware in iPhone, and how to display it?
    Otherwise, where can i get or install it in my iPhone?

  5. […] had bought one version for Windows Mobile on my old HTC Touch while living in Beijing, but had depended on DianHua (free) and HippoDict (pretty good but not free) since switching to iPhone in the United States. […]

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