I cannot figure out now to make my Mac (OS X 10.8) use Oxford spelling in its spell checker (note I am being absolutely precise in the use of that term)! For example, I want to be able to write "organize colours" without my Mac from underlining one of those words as a spelling error (whilst also recognising that the way I just spelled recognize was an error, as old habits die hard).

Neither the British nor American spelling options in the system preferences can do this, and it is just ever so slightly infuriating that a Mac that uses the Oxford Dictionary as its spelling dictionary will not use said dictionary's preferred spelling!

  • 1
    To add an additional spelling dictionary, copy the dictionary files (.aff and .dic) to the Spelling folder in your Library folder.
    – Ruskes
    Sep 11, 2013 at 22:22
  • 2
    You can also add dictionaries used by OpenOffice. This includes an OED. Install as per Buscar's comment. There are two sources for these: wiki.services.openoffice.org/wiki/Dictionaries and extensions.services.openoffice.org:80/en/dictionaries What you download from the second source will have the extension .oxt. You need to change this to .zip, then double click on the file. The resulting folder should contain the .dic and .aff files. You can also try switching to Canadian or Australian english (for the spelling, not the accents). I'm not sure then about System Prefs.
    – ICL1901
    Sep 12, 2013 at 5:29
  • My Mac (OS X 10.8.5) prefers "colours" and underlines "colors", without me having added any dictionaries. However, I don't know which setting is responsible. If you or somebody else tells me where to look, I may report back.
    – Řídící
    Sep 13, 2013 at 13:53
  • Related question: apple.stackexchange.com/questions/21429/… Aug 10, 2015 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


LibreOffice's British English dictionary has support for Oxford English. You can download the .dic and .aff files from https://github.com/ropensci/hunspell/tree/master/inst/dict and place the files in ~/Library/Spelling – either manually, or using the terminal:

wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ropensci/hunspell/master/inst/dict/en_GB.aff -O ~/Library/Spelling/en_GB.aff
wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ropensci/hunspell/master/inst/dict/en_GB.dic -O ~/Library/Spelling/en_GB.dic

Then log out and log in again, or restart your machine.

You should now be able to go to your keyboard preferences (Apple menu → System Preferences…), choose the Text tab and enable the new dictionary under Spelling. It should be called “British English (Library)”:

British English (Library) chosen in menu

Here's a screenshot of a Safari text field spell checked with this dictionary:

Spell checking with the new dictionary

P.S: If you choose to enable auto-detection of the language used for spell checking, it doesn't seem to use these “Library” dictionaries, so you might need to right click in text fields, open Spelling and grammar and explicitly set the language to British English (Library) to get it to work.

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