Website Review: MDBG Chinese-English Dictionary

Probably one of the most well-known online Chinese dictionaries amongst learners of Chinese is MDBG. This is no surprise given the sheer amount of features on the website, from basic Chinese dictionary functionality, to translation, learning tools and more. Here is a run down of some of the most useful features of MDBG:

Chinese Dictionary

The MDBG Chinese dictionary allows Simplified, Traditional and also handwritten input, which will come in handy when you don’t know the Pinyin or the pronunciation for a word. There are also many advanced search options allowing the inclusion or exclusion of certain characters from search results, and also searching in Pinyin. Tip: To search using Pinyin directly from the main search box just enter the prefix “p:” before entering the Pinyin.

Dictionary search results feature audio pronunciation, Pinyin, Simplified and Traditional Chinese versions, and you can also add words from the search results directly to your Skritter account. Unfortunately, there aren’t any example sentences of usage for the words, only definitions. Although the one click Google search for words makes up for this somewhat.

If you have an Internet enabled mobile phone then you can also use the mobile version of MDBG too. Even though the mobile version didn’t automatically adjust to fit the screen of an iPhone, the interface is smaller and so allowing easier use.

Radical Look-up

When learning Chinese, something that can be a great help in understanding how words are constructed, is knowing how radicals are used in Chinese characters. Using the Radicals feature of MDBG you can view a list of radicals and also each of the words within which that radical appears.

Flash Cards and Character Quizzes

The practice section of MDBG has three features: Web Feeds, Character Quizzes, and Flash Cards. The Flash Cards feature either allows the automatic creation of cards from a passage of text or you can just use the standard HSK word lists. While you can customise the display of words on the flash cards, the English can’t hidden so if you’d like to test your vocabulary then the Quiz feature will most likely be of more use. The Quiz section of MDBG displays a list of words one at a time, first testing your pronunciation and then testing if you know the meaning of the word – if you have lists of words to learn for an exam then this is an essential tool.

Other Features

Other features that are also useful, but that you might not need that often include a Chinese and Pinyin typing interface, Chinese character code conversion and also a paid for offline version which seems to be along the lines of Dr Eye.

MDBG is a favourite among Chinese learners and definitely worth checking out if you are a beginner or even a more advanced learner. The interface could ideally be tweaked here and there to make it more pleasing to the eye, but the important thing is that all the features you’ll need are present, and it is being regularly mantained so undergoing continual improvement.

MDBG Character Input

MDBG Search Results

MDBG Pronunciation

MDBG iPhone

MDBG Radicals List

MDBG Flash Cards

MDBG Quiz

MDBG Chinese typing interface
MDBG Chinese typing interface

MDBG Offline Version
MDBG Offline Version

If you’ve know of any other websites we should take a look at, or if you have an opinion about any of the features at MDBG then please leave a message below:

  • Chris

    Try entering sentences as well, it’ll break it up for you, which is nice

  • I was literally just searching for something and noticed that – the phrase I was searching for wasn’t found, so instead the breakdown of the phrase was shown. Not a bad feature at all, in Google Dictionary I end up manually doing that when the word’s not found.

  • Dave, great review. MDBG is also my favourite online dictionary, which I use on a very regular basis. In fact, so much that I put a Firefox quicksearch in place – which I explained how to do here.

  • It seems http://zhongwenlearner.com/ has taken the MDBG.NET Chinese Input Method and improved it so that English is shown alongside the characters when you’re choosing. That can be useful if you know what you want to say in pinyin but you’re not very good at reading and choosing the characters.

  • John Lavitt

    What does MBDG stand for? Is it an acronym, and for what?