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Open dictionary databases: an overview

July 21, 2009 in CKAN, Exemplars, Open Data, Public Domain


Open dictionaries are excellent examples of open knowledge projects. Whether monolingual or bilingual, and whether dealing with definitions, etymology, translation or pronounciation – they can often be large, collaborative undertakings.

Dictionary databases have a wide variety of potential applications – from education and research to machine translation and integration with software applications and services.

We’ve listed several open dictionary projects and packages on CKAN:

These include:

We’d like to start using tags to correspond with the ISO 639-2 codes for the representation of names of languages, such as:

If you know of any other open dictionary projects – we’d love to hear about them! You can either pop us a line to the okfn-discuss list, or add packages directly to CKAN:

7 responses to Open dictionary databases: an overview

  1. Hoi, You may want to check out It provides lexical information like all the others. The difference is that the user interface can be changed to another language and it will be able to show the same information in the other language dependent on the availability of translations./

  2. Thanks for the suggestion GerardM!

    I’ve added a package for OmegaWiki at:

    Feel free to amend or add to this entry!

  3. I notice Macmillan have added an Open Dictionary to their new free online dictionary

  4. Jean C: thanks for the pointer. Unfortunately it looks like Macmillan’s “Open Dictionary” isn’t open — at least not in any way we mean by that term.

    Their “open” means letting you give them information for free (by submitting word suggestions) but getting nothing back — as the terms and conditions make quite clear (emphasis added):

    Unless otherwise indicated, this Web Site and its contents are the property of Macmillan Publishers Limited, … The copyright in the material contained on this Web Site belongs to Macmillan or its licensors. … Reproduction of material on this Web Site is prohibited unless express permission is given by Macmillan.

    … You may not redistribute any of the Content of this Web Site without the prior authorisation of Macmillan or create a database in electronic form or manually by downloading and storing any content.

    To my mind this is clear abuse of the term open and and more than a little exploitative — you do work for them for free and they don’t even promise to give you credit let alone permission to use the material you helped create. Such potential for abuse of the “open” label is a major reason we created the open definition — where open content and data is clearly defined as material that anyone is free to use, reuse and redistribute without restriction.

  5. From what I see, there is a figure of different positions on this. I mean you only have to browse the varied Internet forums and that gets starkly plain. Yet the trouble is, numerous people don’t appear to look that deep into this.

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