What’s The Best Spanish Dictionary Online? (Updated, 2012)

Looking for a good free Spanish-English dictionary online? Well, I have done the search for you, and I am glad to say that there are some really good free Spanish dictionaries out there. But I didn’t only want to write a list of links, I also wanted to answer a simple question: What is the best Spanish dictionary online?

To do that, I first found the five seven most popular online Spanish dictionaries (at least, according to Google), and then I compared them using the following (technical, slang or simply uncommon) Spanish words:

  1. misoginia: misogyny.
  2. fronterizo: border, neighboring (states, etc.)
  3. feligrés: parishioner.
  4. guillotinar: to guillotine.
  5. instar: to urge.
  6. sionismo: Zionism.
  7. interpolar: to interpolate.
  8. ósmosis: osmosis.
  9. logaritmo: logarithm.
  10. polaridad: polarity.
  11. fagocitar: phagocytize, phagocytose.
  12. libar: to sip.
  13. pinche: mainly it means “cook’s assistant”, but I wanted to find the Mexican slang meaning “bloody, damn”.
  14. concha: mainly “shell”, but I was looking for the slang meaning “vulva, c*nt” (from Argentina, Chile, Peru and Uruguay).
  15. guasa (colloquial): joke.
  16. mogollón (de), (colloquial): loads (of), tons (of).
  17. fardar (colloquial): to show off, to brag.
  18. ligar (colloquial): to make advances, to pick up.
  19. Update Oct-05-2012 (five new obscure words):
    1. taray: tamarisk.
    2. zurumbático: stunned, dazed.
    3. pintiparar: to compare something to another thing, or to make something look like another thing.
    4. protervia: protervity, wickedness, peevishness.
    5. taheño: red (hair), having a red hair or beard, ginger.

And here are the results. These are the most popular Spanish online dictionaries I found:

In this table I show how each of them performed on translating the words:

MWT WRF SDT FDT GTR DCT TFD
misoginia 1 1 1 1 1 1
fronterizo 1 1 1 1 1 1
feligrés 1 1 1 1 1 1
guillotinar 1 1 1 1 1 1
instar 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
sionismo 0.5 1 1 1 1 1
interpolar 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
ósmosis 1 1 1 1 1
logaritmo 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
polaridad 1 1 1 1 1 1
fagocitar 0.5 0.5 1 0.5 0.5
libar 1 1 1 0.5 1 1
pinche 1 1 0.5 1 1
concha 0.5 1 1 1 1 1
guasa 1 1 1 1 1 1
mogollón 1 1 0.5 1 1
fardar 1 1 0.5 1 1
ligar 1 1 0.5 1 1
taray 0.5 1 1
zurumbático 1 1 1
pintiparar 0.5 1 0.5 1 1
protervia 1
taheño 1
47,83% 80,43% 97,83% 17,39% 73,91% 84,78% 80,43%

And the winner is…

It seems there is a clear winner. SpanishDict has the correct translation for 17 22 of the 18 23 words. In fact it also has a translation for the word fagocitar, which was “to engulf, to swallow up”, but it is not a precise translation and so I did not considered it correct (for the purposes of this comparison).

Update Oct-05-2012: Since the date when this article was first written (back in 2008), things has changed a bit. First, Google Translator doesn’t have a dictionary, as such, anymore. Now it has only one function: translate texts. It’s still possible to use it as a dictionary, but sometimes it is necessary to include some “context” for it to decide the right translation. In any case, it certainly has improved a lot since then. Second, now two other good dictionaries are also competing for the crown: Dictionary.com and TheFreeDictionary.com.

So, I repeated the comparison including the two new contenders. Also, this time I gave half a point to any result that is not the precise translation I was looking for, but at least could be of some help (like “to engulf, to swallow up”).

At first, the result was three dictionaries in a tie, so I decided to make things really hard. I added five new, really obscure, words. In fact, until today, I didn’t even know these existed: taray, zurumbático, pintiparar, protervia and taheño.

Well, guess what, the winner is, again, SpanishDict. In fact, it is the only one that have translations for each of the five new words. Pretty impressive! 🙂

Do you know of another good Spanish dictionary online? Well, you may search the words above and see if it is even better than those I found. If that is the case, please don’t forget to drop a comment to share your findings. Happy searching!





12 thoughts on “What’s The Best Spanish Dictionary Online? (Updated, 2012)

  1. Robin H

    Nice test.

    I feel it worth mentioning however that Google translte is a “statistical machine translation” and continues to learn.

    A big super computer is fed thousands of pages of translated parallel text and told to go figure. This explains why initially it would have had more difficulties with colloquial terms, as in the beginning the text it was fed came from UN documents.

    It’s still in Beta but is now open to wiki style alterations. people suggest their own translations, it looks at them, lays down some statistical analysis and then makes a decision.

    Interestingly a number of the words in your list which it was getting wrong back in October it now seems to have learnt. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Carlos B.

    Great article.

    However, I think the best Spanish dictionary is the one of the RAE. These are Spanish-English dictionaries or translators.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Nahmias

    Most general Spanish English dictionaries would not have a specalized word fagocitar, must less a preceise transaltion for it. So you have to Spanishdict are break.
    @Robin That’s why I like Google, it is constantly improving.

    Reply
  4. Michael Lee

    By now, I might add, Google Translate has added all of the above words to its vast repertoire (except for the vulgar meaning of “concha”).

    Reply
  5. Michael

    Hi,
    I want to add that SpanishDict is remarkably thorough, producing lots of sentence examples in a well organized way
    For each meaning of a given word. I’m happy to see it so high on your list.

    Reply
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  7. zilcher

    Microsoft Translator (Bing Translate) is also good. At times, I find it produces better results than Google Translate, so I use both and compare them to each other. Like Google Translate, Microsoft Translator gets better over time as people put new words and text into it, i.e. it is a heuristic translation engine that learns.

    Reply
  8. Brian

    If you include the forums on WordReference (which are easily the most useful part of the site), all of these can easily be found there. I think it’s unfair to not include the forums, because they’re incredibly extensive and accurate. I honestly can’t count the number of times I’ve been unable to find a word on SpanDict and gone to the WordReference forums and found it instantly.

    Also, fagocitar has two definitions, according to the RAE. The second definition is the one you found on WordReference, so it should’ve received 18 out of 18. By the way, fagocitar has three separate threads in the WR forums, and both definitions are covered, as well as a third use which is “to acquire (a smaller company)” in Spanish business language.

    In short, I tell my students to use WR, because it’s simply the best resource on the web, and the forums are an absolute goldmine, because the majority of answers are provided by bilingual native speakers. Seriously, I’ve NEVER been unable to find a word on WR.

    Reply

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