I'm creating a multilingual online dictionary and I need an open source English dictionary to work off of.

Wordnet is the obvious choice, as it's extremely complete and its license is permissive of commercial use, but unfortunately the senses are much too fine-grained for my purposes. Wordnet also contains many definitions that are too domain specific. For instance, when my users search "bus", I'd like them to see:

a vehicle carrying many passengers; used for public transport

and not:

bus topology, the topology of a network whose components are connected by a busbar

busbar, an electrical conductor that makes a common connection between several circuits

So one option is to perform sense clustering on Wordnet and then disambiguate between the resulting senses in a very general corpus of English text (and return only the most frequent senses)... ugh! I'm hoping someone has done this already? Or better yet there exists an open source, coarse-grained dictionary of general English that I'm not yet aware of? Many thanks to anyone who can point me in the right direction.

  • You want to "work off of" it or you just want to copy it as is? If the former then Wordnet should be fine. Feb 8, 2014 at 6:26

2 Answers 2


See this WordNet entry for bus. The senses are already ranked according to how common they are. In addition to that, the first (optional) field, between parentheses, gives an indication of how frequently each word-sense was seen. Frequency of use is determined by the number of times a sense is tagged in the various semantic concordance texts.

I don't know how this number corresponds with anything outside the WordNet corpus. However, just stripping away all the senses that don't have this number should help you achieve your goal.

  • Do we know roughly how commonly the optional field is used? For the cases when it's omitted our OP will still have to either do his own tailoring, use them all, or omit them all. Feb 8, 2014 at 6:27
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    @hippietrail: even fairly uncommon words (e.g.) have, at least, a "(1)". But not all words have it (e.g.), in which case, using just the first definition should be good enough.
    – prash
    Feb 8, 2014 at 7:06

Try using the English Wiktionary. You can download a dump from here; look for enwiktionary. Its structure is quite straight-forward, so it should not be too much of a problem to automatically remove all of the non-English entries and re-format it in a structure you can use for your purpose.

But, …, may I ask why do you want to create a multilingual online dictionary? There already are many in existence (Wiktionary (wiktionary.org), to name one, is a community-based, open-source, open-content multilingual dictionary). What is the benefit in having another one? Do you have the resources and ability to create and maintain such a project?

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    My favorite open source dictionnary is wikipedia. When I want to translate a word, especially a technical one, I look for it in wikipedia, then switch for the corresponding entry in the other language.
    – babou
    Feb 9, 2014 at 21:44

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