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Wiktionary logoWiktionary logo
Detail of the Wiktionary main page. All major wiktionaries are listed by number of articles.
Screenshot of home page
Web address
Slogan The Free Dictionary
Commercial No
Type of site
Registration Optional
Available in Multi-lingual (over 170)
Owner Wikimedia Foundation
Created by Jimmy Wales and the Wikimedia community
Launched December 12, 2002
Alexa rank
661 (February 2013)[1]
Current status active
To go directly to the Wikipedia sister project, see

Wiktionary (from the words wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in 158 languages. Unlike standard dictionaries, it is written collaboratively by volunteers, dubbed "Wiktionarians", using wiki software, allowing articles to be changed by almost anyone with access to the website.

Like its sister project Wikipedia, Wiktionary is run by the Wikimedia Foundation. Because Wiktionary is not limited by print space considerations, most of Wiktionary's language editions provide definitions and translations of words from many languages, and some editions offer additional information typically found in thesauri and lexicons. Additionally, the English Wiktionary includes Wikisaurus, a category that serves as a thesaurus, including lists of slang words, and the Simple English Wiktionary, compiled using the Basic English subset of the English language.

The goal of Wiktionary is to eventually define "all words in all languages."[2]

History and development[edit]

Wiktionary was brought online on December 12, 2002,[3] following a proposal by Daniel Alston and an idea by Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia.[4] On March 28, 2004, the first non-English Wiktionaries were initiated in French and Polish. Wiktionaries in numerous other languages have since been started. Wiktionary was hosted on a temporary domain name ( until May 1, 2004, when it switched to the current domain name.[5] As of May 2009, Wiktionary features well over 5 million entries across its 272 language editions. The largest of the language editions is the English Wiktionary, with over 3.2 million entries. The French Wiktionary is the second largest with over 2.3 million entries. Nineteen Wiktionary language editions now contain over 100,000 entries each.[6]

The use of bots to generate large numbers of articles is visible as "growth spurts" in this graph of article counts at the largest eight Wiktionary editions. (Data as of December 2009)

Most of the entries and many of the definitions at the project's largest language editions were created by bots that found creative ways to generate entries or (rarely) automatically imported thousands of entries from previously published dictionaries. Seven of the 18 bots registered at the English Wiktionary[7] created 163,000 of the entries there.[8] Only 259 entries remain (each containing many definitions) on Wiktionary from the original import by Websterbot from public domain sources; the majority of those imports have been split out to thousands of proper entries manually. Another one of these bots, "ThirdPersBot," was responsible for the addition of a number of third-person conjugations that would not receive their own entries in standard dictionaries; for instance, it defined "smoulders" as the "third-person singular simple present form of smoulder." Excluding these 163,000 entries, the English Wiktionary would have about 137,000 entries, including terms unique to languages other than English, making it smaller than most monolingual print dictionaries. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, has 615,000 headwords, while Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, Unabridged has 475,000 entries (with many additional embedded headwords). It should be noted, though, that more detailed statistics now exist to distinguish more clearly the main entries from sub-entries.

The English Wiktionary, however does not rely on bots to the extent that newer editions do. The French and Vietnamese Wiktionaries, for example, imported large sections of the Free Vietnamese Dictionary Project (FVDP), which provides free content bilingual dictionaries to and from Vietnamese.[9] These imported entries make up virtually all of the Vietnamese edition's offering. The French Wiktionary grew rapidly in 2006 thanks in large part to bots copying many entries from old, freely licensed dictionaries, such as the eighth edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (1935, around 35,000 words), and using bots to add words from other Wiktionary editions with French translations. The Russian edition grew by nearly 80,000 entries as "LXbot" added boilerplate entries (with headings, but without definitions) for words in English and German.[10]


The various Wiktionary language editions use mainly two logo designs. The English Wiktionary and some others currently use a textual logo designed for the initial Wiktionary by Brion Vibber, a MediaWiki developer.[11] A four-phase contest held at the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki from September to October 2006[12] did not see as much participation from the Wiktionary community as some community members had hoped. The logo that won was designed by "Smurrayinchester" but was not accepted by all communities.[13] In April 2009, the issue was resurrected, with a new vote for project-wide logo, which failed.[14] The Spanish Wiktionary switched its logo from the original textual design to a variation of the wooden tile design after it reached its 75,000th entry in mid-2012.[citation needed]

As of January 25, 2012, 31 wikis (representing 48 % of Wiktionary) use the original textual design by Vibber, 136 (51 %) the design by "Smurrayinchester".[15]


To ensure accuracy, Wiktionary has a policy[2] stating that entries should be attested, that is, verified through either:

  1. Clearly widespread use, or
  2. Usage in a well-known work, or
  3. Usage in permanently recorded media, conveying meaning, in at least three independent instances spanning at least a year, or
  4. For terms in extinct languages: usage in at least one contemporaneous source.

Critical reception[edit]

Critical reception of Wiktionary has been mixed. In 2006 Jill Lepore wrote in the article "Noah’s Ark" for The New Yorker,[16]

There’s no show of hands at Wiktionary. There’s not even an editorial staff. "Be your own lexicographer!", might be Wiktionary’s motto. Who needs experts? Why pay good money for a dictionary written by lexicographers when we could cobble one together ourselves?
Wiktionary isn’t so much republican or democratic as Maoist. And it’s only as good as the copyright-expired books from which it pilfers.

Keir Graff’s review for Booklist was less critical:

Is there a place for Wiktionary? Undoubtedly. The industry and enthusiasm of its many creators are proof that there’s a market. And it’s wonderful to have another strong source to use when searching the odd terms that pop up in today’s fast-changing world and the online environment. But as with so many Web sources (including this column), it’s best used by sophisticated users in conjunction with more reputable sources.[citation needed]

References in other publications are fleeting and part of larger discussions of Wikipedia, not progressing beyond a definition, although David Brooks in The Nashua Telegraph described it as wild and woolly.[17] (Wooly is defined as "confused" and "unrestrained."[18]) One of the impediments to independent coverage of Wiktionary is the continuing confusion that it is merely an extension of Wikipedia.[19] In 2005, PC Magazine rated Wiktionary as one of the Internet's "Top 101 Web Sites,"[20] although little information was given about the site.

The measure of correctness of the inflections for a subset of the Polish words in the English Wiktionary showed that this grammatical data is very stable. Only 131 out of 4748 Polish words have had their inflection data corrected.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ " Site Info". Alexa Internet. Retrieved 2013-02-03. 
  2. ^ a b "Wiktionary:Criteria for inclusion – Wiktionary". 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  3. ^ Wikipedia mailing list archive discussion announcing the opening of the Wiktionary project – Retrieved May 3, 2011
  4. ^ Wikipedia mailing list archive discussion from Larry Sanger giving the idea on Wiktionary – Retrieved May 3, 2011
  5. ^ Wiktionary's current URL is
  6. ^ Wiktionary total article counts are here. Detailed statistics by word type are available here [1].
  7. ^ The user list at the English Wiktionary identifies accounts that have been given "bot status".
  8. ^ TheDaveBot, TheCheatBot, Websterbot, PastBot, NanshuBot
  9. ^ Hồ Ngọc Đức, Free Vietnamese Dictionary Project. Details at the Vietnamese Wiktionary.
  10. ^ LXbot[dead link]
  11. ^ "Wiktionary talk:Wiktionary Logo", English Wiktionary, Wikimedia Foundation.
  12. ^ "Wiktionary/logo", Meta-Wiki, Wikimedia Foundation.
  13. ^ "Wiktionary/logo", Wikimedia Meta-Wiki, Wikimedia Foundation.
  14. ^ "Wiktionary/logo/refresh/voting", Meta-Wiki, Wikimedia Foundation.
  15. ^ m:Wiktionary/logo#Logo use statistics.
  16. ^ The full article is not available on-line. Jill Lepore (November 6, 2006). "Noah's Ark" (Abstract). The New Yorker. Retrieved April 21, 2007. 
  17. ^ David Brooks, "Online, interactive encyclopedia not just for geeks anymore, because everyone seems to need it now, more than ever!" The Nashua Telegraph (August 4, 2004)
  18. ^ "wooly". Wiktionary. 
  19. ^ In this citation, the author refers to Wiktionary as part of the Wikipedia site: Adapted from an article by Naomi DeTullio (2006 (1st Quarter)). "Wikis for Librarians" (PDF). NETLS News #142 (Northeast Texas Library System). p. 15. Archived from the original (PDF newsletter) on 2007-06-05. Retrieved April 21, 2007.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  20. ^ "Wiktionary". Top 101 Web Sites. PC Magazine. April 6, 2005. Retrieved December 16, 2005. 
  21. ^ Z. Kurmas (July 2010). Zawilinski: a library for studying grammar in Wiktionary. Proceedings of the 6th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration. Gdansk, Poland. Retrieved 2011-07-29.  line feed character in |date= at position 5 (help); Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]