Thursday 25 July 2024 09:27:26 PHT

Wolff's Cebuano Dictionary Available on

IJsselstein, Tuesday, 8 May 2012

After about four years of proof-reading at Distributed Proofreaders, the digital edition of John U. Wolff's Dictionary of Cebuano Visayan is completed. This dictionary of over 1200 pages was first published in 1972, and is one of the most comprehensive Cebuano dictionaries available. For two years, an experimental interface to the raw dictionary data has been available on this site, but today we are ready to show a new interface to the fully checked and tagged text version of this dictionary. (And since, we've added an Android app as well)

John Wolff spend about 10 years producing this dictionary from scratch. With a team of local assistants, he collected words from actual spoken conversations and print publications in the old-fashioned way: using cards to note down each word and its usage. This, way, the dictionary reflects the language as it was in the sixties. Some of it strengths for foreign learners are that it includes sample sentences with most entries, uses accents to help with the correct pronunciation, and identifies plants and animals with their scientific names.

For Cebuano speakers, some aspects of this dictionary may make it a little bit harder to use. First of all, the orthography will take some time to get used to, as Wolff resolutely purged the e and o from the alphabet, using i and u, respectively, in their place. Second, many of the translations, especially those of the sample sentences, the author uses American idiom in an attempt not only to translate the literal meaning, but also the connotation of the usage. Reading those will actually also help you improve your English!

Finally, this dictionary also indicates, through a system of codes, the various possible uses of verbs. This system, however, requires a careful reading of the introduction of the dictionary.

This project wouldn't have been possible without the help of countless volunteers proofreading the data, and, even more important the huge effort John Wolff put into compiling this work, and the generosity of his publisher to place this work in the public domain.

All raw data and scripts used to produce this dictionary are available from GitHub.

You are now all invited to play around with the interface here, use it as you think it is useful, and tell us about your experiences in the comments below this article. All your ideas and criticism are welcome.

If you have an account with, you can also log in and leave notes with each entry, which you can make public if you like (note that the site administrators can read all such notes, even if not made public)

Some Numbers...

Number of entries: 21761
Number of Cebuano words: 264485 (69604 distinct)
Number of English words: 623159 (25944 distinct)
Total number of words: 961801
Size of master file: 7.64 MB

Known Issues

Highlighting of the search term does only work when the word found is an exact match with the search term. (Need to implement regular expression matching in high-lighting code.)

Double accented letters may appear with the top accent after the letter. (This is a limitation of the font used in your browser in combination with use of Unicode combined diacritics.)

Jeroen Hellingman

What readers think...

Mark Wood wrote:
Thursday, 9 November 2017 10:39:30 PHT
Hi. This dictionary is a great help. One tiny problem, I haven't been able to find a table of symbols/abbreviations. Some of the entries are marked, for instance, with an asterisk or a dagger (a cross). What does this denote? Thank you.
David Beckwith wrote:
Thursday, 10 July 2014 09:08:02 PHT
Hi, I did a search for "bring" and got 20 pages of results. This makes for a pretty unusable English-Cebuano search. I wonder if there was a way to order the search results in a more relevant way besides alphabetical order. Maybe a simple thing to do would be to count the number of times the word "bring" occurred in the definition and present those results first.
David Beckwith wrote:
Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:46:04 PHT
Hello, do you know of any word frequency lists for Cebuano or Visayan in the public domain. Thanks for the great work.
Tim Harvey wrote:
Tuesday, 5 June 2012 01:23:58 PHT
I looked over the source, and you're just about there. You've organized this very well and imaginatively. . . by engaging Distributed Proofreaders almost like Wolff did in during the pre-web days with his collaborators when he compiled the dictionary. I especially applaud you for making the source and data files available. This will surely allow Cebuano speakers, linguists and others to become even more engaged in the language. This has been a long road, but your accomplishment and contribution will be enduring, I'm sure.

Thanks Tim. It was you who contributed the very first dictionary data file to this site, now some eight years ago. We've gone a long way from there, and hope to continue to improve the quality and quantity of dictionary data available here.--Jeroen.

Scott Robertson wrote:
Friday, 18 May 2012 21:40:48 PHT
Good work, Jeroen! This is the kind of professionalism that Professor Wolff's dictionary deserves.

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