How to add and remove dictionaries on iPhone and iPad

The Define option in the iPhone and iPad text selector popup gives you dictionary definitions for most common words. It's convenient because it can be accessed in only a couple of taps. But what if you're in England and the U.S. dictionary keeps coming up? What if you also speak Italian or Japanese or Chinese and want to access those definitions as well? What if you're traveling and want access to French? To save space Apple keeps additional dictionaries offline but you can easily add and remove additional dictionaries any time you want. That way you can have the languages you want right where you want them!

How to enable multiple dictionaries in the define feature on your iPhone and iPad

  1. Tap on the word you want to define to select it and activate the popup.
  2. Tap on Define to call up the dictionary.
  3. Tap on Manage.
  4. Tap the iCloud button beside any extra dictionaries you want to download.
  5. Tap the X button beside any extra dictionaries you want to remove.

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Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

How to add and remove dictionaries on iPhone and iPad


Wow, I was always thought the dictionary was linked to the language chosen from the initial setup of your iOS device. Glad to know I can add more dictionaries! I hope they add more language packs soon, unfortunately for me the 2nd most used language I use is not available :)
Thanks for the tip!

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This is one feature I absolutely love. I wish there were a few more technical dictionaries for products and such like the Apple Dictionary. Other bits of computer hardware aside from Apple hardware and terminology. Other computing dictionaries such as a "general" one and some others would be awesome to have one day.

A medical dictionary is sorely needed. As someone who frequently types a lot of medical terminology, almost none of these terms are in the stock dictionary. A true pain in the ass when half these words are like 50 characters long then get auto in-corrected. To type any amount of content using technical / medical terminology will make you want to put a bullet in your head. Example? I dare you to type this out manually:

"The Schaffer collateral is located between the CA3 region and CA1 region in the hippocampus. Schaffer collaterals are the axons of pyramidal cells that connect two neurons (CA3 and CA1) and transfer information from CA3 to CA1. The entorhinal cortex sends the main input to the dentate gyrus (perforant pathway). From the granule cells of the dentate gyrus, connections are made to the CA3 regions of the hippocampus via mossy fibers. CA3 sends the information signals to CA1 pyramidal cells via the Schaffer collateral and commissural fibers from the contralateral hippocampus as well."

"The double immunogold labeling identified that SK2 channels and NMDA cohabit within the postsynaptic density (PSD) of CA1 regions of the hippocampus. The authors used theta-burst pairing (TBP) to produce a rapid potentiation of synaptic strength and to evoke LTP that is induced simultaneously but whose expression levels vary inversely over time, and the result of the TBP induction was compared to the control group."

You want to die now? I expected so. Now you know what I fight against every day on this infernal device.

Not even to mention it doesn't have any drug names, a problem when you are constantly referencing drug names (a fundamental necessity when you're dealing in neuropsychopharmacology. Which, ironically, the phone flags as an error. I can assure you, I don't type that out for fun. That's a long-ass word. No getting around it.

So Apple, add a damn medical dictionary or at least give us the option to manually add one. The time and frustration it would save me... ineffable, really.

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try the SwiftKey keyboard. It will analyze everything you've written and will write after installation and pick up all your medical terms quickly, auto-suggest and uf you switch the auto-completion feature on also auto-complete them. And best of all: it spits swiping instead of typing, which is so much faster!

Does anyone have any problems with dictionaries not saving when selected? I installed a dictionary but it will not stay selected the next time I search for a word. It remains installed, but not selected.

Built in dictionary does not stay
I use define, manage, select a dictionary, cluck download from cloud, to find the meaning of words. But next time, I go to define, the dictionary need to be downloaded again. Any one how how to fix this problem? Thanks in advance

I'm having the same problem. I think the definition download might be word-by-word based, meaning you aren't downloading the definition of the whole language, just the definition for that particular word. This is just my theory of it though. If it turns out to be true, does anyone know how to download all the words of given a language at once?

Thank you for the info. Like others I would like a dictionary not offered by Apple. In my case I would like a Latin Language dictionary. I set out to teach myself Latin several years ago. I cannot say I am fluent. But I can read simple material. As with much language learning, once you get past the basic structure of the language it is a question of building vocabulary. I can and do look up words in the Latin dictionary residing elsewhere on my iPad and iPhone. But a popup dictionary would be ever so much easier to use.