Free and open Kindle formatted Spanish to English dictionary

Screen shot 2010-01-08 at 10.19.47 AM.pngThe Evil Genius Chronicles has made this Creative Commons dictionary available. Here's what the Evil Genius says: Over the holidays, I took upon myself a challenge. I’ve been fiddling around creating a Mobipocket format dictionary consisting of Spanish words and their English translations. I wanted to be able to set it as my primary dictionary on the Kindle and then use it for on-demand word translation as I gut through trying to read documents in Spanish. A few months back, I couldn’t find any unencrypted ones for sale although now apparently some do exist.

This seemed straightforward enough, so I did a little Ruby scripting (getting a crash course in Unicode characters in the process). I found these lists of Spanish word frequencies and wrote a script to parse them into one word per line. I then wrote a script to take lists of words from STDIN, check to see if they existed in the map and if not look them up from various online sources and add it, and then save it as a YAML file. It was most of a week including false starts and do-overs to finally run the whole list against online translating tools. From there, I created another script to take the YAML file and rewrite it as a (roughly) alphabetically sorted and tab delimited text file. With that done, I used these already available tools to take that file and create files suitable for Mobipocket Creator.

The upshot is that this Kindle formatted Spanish to English translation dictionary is available now to download, for free. In order to use it, place it on your Kindle via USB or emailling it to your device. Go to “Home->Menu->Settings”, then “Menu->Change Primary Dictionary.” From that point, moving the cursor over a word will work like the dictionary used to with definitions, but with English translations of Spanish words.

I offer this to the world, for free, no strings attached. In fact, because of the Creative Commons license on it (described below) you are free to take the files and do whatever you want with them as long as you comply. Be aware of the following caveats with this dictionary:
1: This is a machine generated translation from various online sources. There is no guarantee of correctness for any given term. I did find and scrub some bogus racist translations that have been put into some online repositories, and their may be other erroneous or malicious terms submitted that have ended up in this dictionary. I warrantee nothing and can pretty much say there are some translations or source words that can offend delicate sensibilities. Over time I might try to find ways to improve this file, continue to fill out the dictionary word list and maybe even improve the translations that are already there. Keep watching this blog for future revisions.
2: There are still formatting issues for the dictionary popup lookup. While you will see your term first in the list, it will not stop at the following term. Any feedback on how to engineer the source files to make this work correctly can be sent to or left as a comment on this post.
3: This book is offered with a Creative Commons license: BY-NC-SA For the required attribution, please provide a link to
I’m glad to get any feedback on this dictionary, particularly on point #2. If anyone can describe how to reformat the HTML input files to make the dictionary popups not run together, I’d be highly appreciative. Beyond that, roll and have fun with it and let me know how it works for you. If someone can point me to directions on how to turn these source files into the equivalent version for the Nook, I’d be happy to publish that as well, although I’ll need volunteers to help me test it.
For me, I’m off to take another crack at Don Quixote.

14 Comments on Free and open Kindle formatted Spanish to English dictionary

  1. I’m suspecting from the question that you’ve never actually tried this on a Kindle. A book with DRM on it can’t be set to your primary dictionary on the Kindle and you usually find this out after you’ve spent the money. That’s what happened to me, which is why I did this project.

  2. On second thought, I’ve been trying out your dictionary and—for a free one—it’s not bad. I wonder about some of the strange marks you have above of the letters, which do not exist in Spanish. You have caret signs, umlauts, etc.

  3. Thanks. As the disclaimer says, this is machine generated by pumping hundreds of thousands of words from machine generated lists through a script for machine generated translations. If the input word had an umlaut and the translator returned an answer, it showed up in the dictionary. For version 0.2 I might try to better filter on that. It’s a work in progress.

  4. Hi Dave, do you know any dictionary that can be used as default dictionary on kindle but which translates the other way round? I mean, is there any dictionary to translate english words into spanish, that can be used as default in kindle?
    I am trying to find one in amazon, but I can’t find anything…

    thanks for your answer!!

  5. Hi Dave,

    is it possible to use your dictionary with the Kindle app for the iphone (or ipad)?

  6. Hi Dave,

    This sounds like a great tool. I’ve downloaded Don Quijote and am anxious to dive in with the dictionary at hand. I recently purchased the Kindle DX graphite running 2.5.5. However, when I download your app and place it on my Kindle via the USB, I’m not certain where it goes within the file folders listed:


    I’ve tried to move your app to various locations, but nothing results in a “Change Primary Dictionary” setting appearing in my Kindle–even after a re-start. All I see is Registration, Popular Highlights, Social Networks, Annotations Backup, Device Password, Device Name, Device E-mail, Personal Info, and Device Info.

    Any guidance you can provide would be appreciated!

  7. This may seem a silly question, but as a Kindle virgin, I need to know this before purchasing one. I am a Spanish language student and would like to get books in Spanish on Kindle…but….I would like the dictionary feature to give me the definitions in English, serving as my instant translator! This may be already possible, but I need to know. Anyone?

  8. Thanks for the dictionary. FYI, I just purchased Marriam-Webster’s spanish dictionary from Amazon, and it works great as the dictionary for lookup while you are reading text.

    Genae, To answer your question, If you are reading spanish books or texts you can move the cursor in front of the word, and the english translation will show up at the bottom of the screen automatically. This is the main reason I bought the Kindle too. WARNING!! This dictionary lookup does not work if you are reading a pdf document.

    To change the dictionary on mine with version 2.5.3, you have to click on Home, Menu, select Settings, and then click on the menu again to get the “Change Primary Dictionary” option. I sure wish you could select a secondary dictionary too.


  9. Dear EG,
    Thanks so so much for making this great translator available. I was putting off buying a Kindle until they offered something like this, and when I found your site, I ordered a Kindle, and downloaded your dictionary (into the Documents folder, in case anyone needs to know) and it works perfectly, beautifully, and I’m several pages into my first ever Spanish novel.
    Thank you thank you thank you.
    You are my new hero! :-)

  10. Hi,

    I have downloaded your dictionary and put it on my kindle 4, my kindle currently has 2 English dictionaries, one Spanish dictionary and your bi-lingual dictionary.

    When I look into the home->menu->settings->dictionaries, I get 2 language options, one English and the other Spanish, your dictionary comes under the English option, and when I set it to default and try it on a Spanish ebook, the Spanish dictionary that I have kicks into action and started giving me Spanish explanation of the words instead of your dictionary giving me the translation as expected. Is there a way to move your dictionary into the Spanish option under home->menu->settings->dictionaries, I suspect if it is there and I set it to default it should work as expected, many thanks for your help in advance.

  11. Thank you so much! This works great.

    Matt, I didn’t put it in any of the folders on my Kindle, I just put it in the same folder that all the files are in (i.e. audio, documents, etc.).

    Once you click on Settings, you don’t need to use any of the settings there… you just have to click the Menu button on your Kindle. It’s a bit confusing but it should be there.

  12. Hi
    I read your aticle
    with some interest.
    I was wondering if you have a list of spanish words ( dictionary ) that I could for free?
    us in a one word per line, UTF-8
    I run a small cafe in gran canaria and we have a intercambio de idiomas group an I’m looking for a dictionary for our site

  13. how would I use this on my Kindle fire? I downloaded the dictionary but cannot figure out how to load it. I don’t even have a menu button; I have a “wheel” up on the right hand corner with +more feature that really doesn’t allow you to + more anything. Could use any help. thanks.

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