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Wiktionary logo
Detail of the English Wiktionary main page. All major wiktionaries are listed by number of articles.
URL http://www.wiktionary.org/
Type of site Online dictionary
Registration Optional
Available language(s) Multi-lingual (over 150)
Owner Wikimedia Foundation
Created by Jimmy Wales and the Wikimedia community

Wiktionary (a portmanteau of wiki and dictionary) is a multilingual, Web-based project to create a free content dictionary, available in over 150 languages. Unlike standard dictionaries, it is written collaboratively by volunteers using wiki software, allowing articles to be changed by almost anyone with access to the Web site.

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 thesauruses and lexicons. Additionally, the English Wiktionary now includes Wikisaurus, a category that serves as a thesaurus, including lists of slang words.[1]

History and development

Wiktionary was brought online on December 12, 2002 following a proposal by Daniel Alston.[citation needed] On March 29, 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 URL (wiktionary.wikipedia.org) until May 1, 2004 when it switched to the current full URL.[2] As of November 2006, Wiktionary features over 1.5 million entries across its 171 language editions. The largest of the language editions is the English Wiktionary, with over 400,000 entries. It was surpassed in early 2006 by the French Wiktionary, only to regain the top position in September 2006. Eight Wiktionary language editions now contain over 100,000 entries each.

File:Wiktionary growth.png
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 from April 2007).

Despite Wiktionary's large number of entries, 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[3] created 163,000 of the entries there.[4] 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 more clearly distinguish genuine entries from minor (small) entries.

The English Wiktionary, however does not rely on bots to the extent that somewhat smaller 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.[5] These imported entries make up virtually all of the Vietnamese edition's offering. Like the English edition, the French Wiktionary has imported the approximately 20,000 entries in the Unihan database of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters. 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.[6]

The logo designed by "Smurrayinchester". Chosen by a contest at Meta-Wiki, it is used by six Wiktionary editions.

Most of Wiktionary currently uses a textual logo designed by Brion Vibber, a MediaWiki developer.[7] Despite frequent discussion of modifying or replacing the logo, a four-phase contest held at the Wikimedia Meta-Wiki from September to October 2006[8] did not see as much participation from the Wiktionary community as some community members had hoped. As of June 2007, the French, Vietnamese, Italian, Korean, Arabic, and Simple English editions have switched to the contest-chosen logo; the remaining editions use either the textual logo or, in the case of the Galician Wiktionary, a logo that depicts a dictionary bearing the Galician coat of arms.

Critical reception

Critical reception of Wiktionary has been mixed. Jill Lepore wrote in the article "Noah’s Ark" for The New Yorker, (November 6, 2006)[9]

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 can 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. If you look up the word "Webster" in the Wiktionary, you will be redirected to this handy tip:

Noah Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 1911 (published by Merriam-Webster, Springfield, MA) is a public domain dictionary, as is a 1913 edition, that can be used to empower Wiktionary with more definitions.

Pfui. But, hey, at least they got his first name right.

Keir Graff’s review for Booklist was more neutral:

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.

References in other publications are fleeting and part of larger discussions of Wikipedia, not progressing beyond a definition, although David Brooks in The Telegraph described it as wild and woolly.[10] (Wooly is defined as "confused" and "unrestrained."[11]) One of the impediments to independent coverage of Wiktionary is the continuing confusion that it is merely an extension of Wikipedia.[12] In 2005, PC Magazine rated Wiktionary as one of the Internet's "Top 101 Web Sites,"[13] although little information was given about the site.

Wiktionary statistics

Ten largest Wiktionary language editions[14]
No. Language Language (local) Wiki Entries Total Edits Admins Users Images Updated
1 English English en 532611 661224 2990719 57 45444 5 2007-09-18 00:31:18
2 French Français fr 464175 507697 2514317 15 4235 15 2007-09-18 00:31:44
3 Vietnamese Tiếng Việt vi 225014 230651 704913 3 1014 16 2007-09-18 00:30:45
4 Turkish Türkçe tr 163611 178301 304926 6 2158 86 2007-09-18 00:30:33
5 Greek Ελληνικά el 153744 167455 435360 5 360 23 2007-09-18 00:30:21
6 Russian Русский ru 127320 156052 462554 3 869 148 2007-09-18 00:30:23
7 Ido Ido io 119288 158014 543480 1 107 3 2007-09-18 00:31:47
8 Chinese 中文 zh 113891 131771 477072 6 2905 195 2007-09-18 00:31:32
9 Polish Polski pl 77292 110446 516929 16 1695 72 2007-09-18 00:31:33
10 Italian Italiano it 63936 73773 378379 15 1960 50 2007-09-18 00:31:35

See also


  1. See "Creating a Wikisaurus entry" for information on the structure of Wikisaurus entries. An example of a well-formatted entry would be "Wikisaurus:insane".
  2. Wiktionary's current URL is www.wiktionary.org.
  3. The user list at the English Wiktionary identifies accounts that have been given "bot status".
  4. TheDaveBot, TheCheatBot, Websterbot, PastBot, NanshuBot
  5. Hồ Ngọc Đức, Free Vietnamese Dictionary Project. Details at the Vietnamese Wiktionary.
  6. LXbot
  7. "Wiktionary talk:Wiktionary Logo", English Wiktionary, Wikimedia Foundation.
  8. "Wiktionary/logo", Meta-Wiki, Wikimedia Foundation.
  9. The full article is not available on-line. Jill Lepore (6 November 2006). "Noah's Ark" (Abstract). The New Yorker. Retrieved 2007-04-21.
  10. David Brooks, "Online, interactive encyclopedia not just for geeks anymore, because everyone seems to need it now, more than ever!" The Telegraph (August 4, 2004)
  11. "wooly". Wiktionary.
  12. 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 newsletter). NETLS News #142. Northeast Texas Library System. p. 15. Retrieved 2007-04-21. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. "Wiktionary". Top 101 Web Sites. PC Magazine. 2005-04-06. Retrieved 2005-12-16. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. List of Wiktionary editions, ranked by article count. Accessed June 25, 2007.

External links

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