Cidian Free Chinese Dictionary for Android

Google Android as a mobile platform is becoming more and more widespread, which is a good thing for users as it means that more apps are being released, and the same is true for Chinese dictionary apps.

Cidian Chinese Dictionary is a free dictionary app for Android that was released in October 2010 and the latest version 1.3 brings the app out of beta.

Cidian Chinese Dictionary


Cidian Chinese Dictionary is available from the Android Marketplace by searching for “Cidian Chinese Dictionary”, and you can also find it on App Brain.

note: When you launch Cidian Chinese Dictionary for the first time you must download the dictionary file, so you might want to make sure you are on wifi if you are on metered bandwidth.

Look and Feel

The design of the app is very clean and consists simply of a search bar at the top of the screen. After searching for a word the results appear with Chinese words in white on a black background, pronunciation is shown below the word in yellow, and below that the English definition in grey. The colour of the pronunciation cannot be changed like in Pleco or Hanping. Though the colour scheme is very easy on the eyes, which could be a benefit if you use your dictionary a lot, plus the black background is good for saving power for certain mobile phone screen types.

Cidian Search Screen Cidian Search Cidian Pinyin Cidian Settings


Searching for words is easy and three methods of search are supported: English, Chinese and Pinyin. When typing English or Pinyin the app does “search-as-you-type” and shows real-time results, though it is not as fast as Hanping. When searching using Pinyin you can choose to add the tone numbers or leave them out. For instance, searching for “qi che” and “qi4 che” will both yield the same results.

Menu Options

Cidian MenuIn keeping with the look and feel of the app, the menu is very simple and straightforward. The main menu that is available from the search page contains four options: Wordlists, Settings, Help and About.

Wordlists, as the name infers, allow you to create lists of words. To add a word to your current list just click on a word in the search results and it will be automatically added to your current ‘active’ list. This functionality might seem weird at first, since a lot of dictionary apps allow you to view more information about the word by clicking on it, but you’ll most likely get used to this.

After you create a new wordlist just click it to view the words contained within, then pressing the menu button again will show three more option: Flashcards, Set as Current and Delete. Setting the list as current will make it into your ‘active’ list into which words will be added when you click them from the search results. Flashcards is a feature that stands out, allowing you to view you saved words in flashcard form – first showing the Chinese, with the Pinyin pronunciation being revealed after clicking the word. Then below that a simple tick and cross for rating yourself.

Cidian Flashcards 01 Cidian Flashcards 02

The Settings page is as easy as they come and consists of a check box to enable Traditional Chinese – though Simplified and Traditional Chinese can not be viewed at the same time in the search results, you have to chose one or the other.


The simplicity of the app and pleasant interface makes a refreshing change. Cidian Chinese Dictionary is just a basic dictionary, with flashcard functionality. This is great if you want to quickly look for a word and save it for viewing later. Something you could do is create a new list for every Chinese lesson you have and save words as you go for review after class. Although, if you are used to feature rich apps with lots of settings then this might not be for you. That’s not saying that the author won’t release a pro version later on with more features.

But after all, it’s free, so if you’re learning Chinese there’s no excuse for not trying it out!

If you’ve used Cidian Chinese Dictionary and have any tips of using it better then let us know below, or if you use any other mobile dictionaries then we’re always looking for new apps to try out!

8 responses to “Cidian Free Chinese Dictionary for Android

  1. Hanping Chinese Pro used to use the “active” list approach but ditched it a few months ago in favour of a tagging system.

    The difference is quite subtle. A word is either starred or not. If it is starred then it can have any number of tags associated with it. You can optionally specify a “default” tag (like the “active” list) which is automatically applied when you star a word.

    You can view all your starred words (like a union of your word lists), or filter by tag (like a single word list).

    1. I see what you mean, I rarely use lists so had another look at Hanping and I see how the tagging works.

      Is it possible to set a default tag or similar? I know that an ‘active’ list isn’t ideal, but one of the features that appeals to me is being able to create a list for a lesson, or for reading a passage of Chinese, then every word I save during that time goes into that lessons ‘folder’. With the tags would I have to organise them after the fact?

      1. Yes, just long-press on the star icon (second screen) to bring up the tag list and then long-press on the tag to make it default. It’s not particularly obvious, I know!

    1. I do like Hanping, I know they’re both CEDICT but the results in Hanping seem to be ordered more relevently. Performing a search in Cidian also takes longer, but I like the simplicity more.

  2. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for the thoughtful review. I think you’re very accurate in pointing out the current positive + negative points of my app.

    The design/features were inspired by Hanping and DianHua (iPhone).

    I’m hoping to get out a new version soon!

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