Standard dictionaries have had a profound effect on languages like English. They've helped normalize spelling and pronunciation and provide reference for meanings and disambiguation.

When thinking of English dictionaries, Oxford and Merriam-Webster immediately come to mind.

Are there standard, popular dictionaries for Mandarin and Cantonese?


4 Answers 4


Yes. For Mandarin (Simplified Chinese):

The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary (现代汉语词典): This one is for words and phrases. They have a version in both Chinese and English.

Xinhua Dictionary (新华字典): this is for Chinese characters. Also available in both English and Chinese.

I'm not too familiar with traditional dictionaries. But 國語日報辭典 seems pretty popular from googling around.

  • 现代汉语词典 may be 'standard', but it has problems, being too northern in emphasis and still rather '50s plebeian style' in its usage judgments. I don't think it can really be relied on as a standard authoritative dictionary; its attempts to delimit usage can be and are regularly ignored. It's also too small. As a trivial example, it doesn't list 溏鹅 for pelican, but if you tried to insist that 溏鹅 isn't a proper Chinese word because it's not in 现代汉语词典, you'd really have your priorities mixed up.
    – Bathrobe
    Jan 11, 2012 at 11:37
  • 1
    @Bathrobe 现代汉语词典 is sort of authoritative. To me, 溏鹅 isn't a proper Chinese word -- I have never seen it before -- pelican is called 鹈鹕 in Chinese.
    – user58955
    Jul 19, 2014 at 23:12
  • Yes, 鹈鹕 is standard, but 溏鹅 is also used, especially in Taiwan. Look up "塘鹅暗杀令" on Baidu. Yes, it's 'The Pelican Brief'. 现代汉语词典 has that kind of problem: too restrictive. Don't rely on it as an ironclad guide to the Chinese language. There's much more to the language than what's found in 现代汉语词典.
    – Bathrobe
    Jul 21, 2014 at 0:26

Xinhua Dictionary is kind of a gold-standard for Chinese dictionaries, similar to the place Merriam-Webster holds in the English-speaking world.

  • 4
    Merriam-Webster, eh? The OED is arguably the most respectable English dictionary out there. Because you know, it was written by the English.
    – Orion
    Dec 14, 2011 at 22:03
  • +1 @NullUserException.. i'd have to agree there
    – jsj
    Dec 17, 2011 at 14:19
  • 2
    haha, ok this is a chinese site. let's not get into an argument about British vs. American English...
    – weiy
    Dec 21, 2011 at 19:23

A per the topic, I think something like 现代汉语规范词典编辑 would be what you are looking for.

From 百度百科:



Which basically says that they're trying to 'standardize' Mandarin.

There's a lot of footnotes throughout the dictionary which emphasize these changes. If you take a word like 确凿 for instance, a lot of Chinese people will pronounce this quèzuò, as this is what was taught in schools ten to twenty years ago, but since then the pronunciation of this word has been standardized: 《现代汉语规范词典》has it lised as quèzáo with a footnote saying 凿:不读“zuò”.

Apple also has 《现代汉语规范词典》available as, it's only, it's CH-CH dictionary on it's iDevices - next to Oxford's CH-ENG dictionary - if that means anything to you as standardization goes.


Are there standard dictionaries for Chinese?

If you are always online, please use the Chinese dictionary on line: http://xh.5156edu.com/

For more information about Chinese words, you can see "CiHai" (辞海)http://www.xiexingcun.com/cihai/, this is a book similar to Encyclopedia Britannica

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