This is regarding the Dictionary app (New Oxford American Dictionary) that comes with Mac OS X. I currently have version 2.2.1 (156) in Mavericks (10.9.1).

In previous versions (Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard, Tiger…), words were shown with interpunctual dots between hyphenate-able syllables—and now they're gone.

These were very useful for copyediting…is there any way (keyboard shortcut, Terminal command) to bring them back? Thanks!

Tiger Dictionary example entry:

Tiger Dictionary example entry

Mavericks Dictionary example entry:

Mavericks Dictionary example entry

  • I don't know of any way to change the way a dictionary displays things, but the Japanese-English dictionary still has the older dots I think. Feb 11, 2014 at 18:53

4 Answers 4


You can install the old dictionary from your old OS X install disk.

Here's what I did with my Snow Leopard disk on my Mavericks installation:

  • Quit Dictionary
  • Turn ON hidden file visibility in Finder by typing this into Terminal:

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles Yes
  • Rename /Library/Dictionaries/New Oxford American Dictionary.dictionary to something like New Oxford American Dictionary-orig.dictionary, since you'll be putting the older OS X version of this dictionary here.

  • Grab the application Pacifist from http://www.charlessoft.com and run it
  • Pop in your old OS X Install disk to your DVD Drive
  • Find the dictionary package. I found mine here:

    /Volumes/Mac OS X Install DVD/System/Installation/Packages/OxfordDictionaries.pkg
  • drag this package into Pacifist

  • Within Pacifist, find your dictionary folder named New Oxford American Dictionary.dictionary
  • Drag this folder into /Library/Dictionaries
  • Start up Dictionary
  • Optional: Go into preferences and enable/disable the dictionaries you want. The just-copied dictionary is probably already enabled, since it has the same name as the original dictionary. But you can also enable the original dictionary so that both are active.
  • You can turn off HIDDEN FILE view by typing into Terminal:

    defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles No

Now, I have the syllables displayed on Mavericks!


This appears to have been removed from the recent dictionaries in OS X, and there does not appear to be an option to re-enable it.

The dots are still present in the Japanese-English dictionary (Dictionary → Preferences):

You can provide feedback to Apple regarding this at the following page:


Just try to select in the Preferences of Dictionary app (v.2.2.1 in OS X 10.8.5) unselected "New Oxford American Dictionary" option. Hyphenation dots will show to you after this, if in Dictionary you'll search for words with "All" tab or "English (USA)" tab for results.

  • Mac OS X version 8.5 is Mountain Lion. This issue only exists in post–Mountain Lion versions (Mavericks, Yosemite).
    – 2540625
    Apr 2, 2015 at 17:16

I had the same problem in OS X Yosemite, but I found a quick workaround for finding out where the syllables break. Open Dictionary, go to the Dictionary menu, select Preferences and turn on the Korean-English source. I can't read the descriptions but at least it has the "dot" breaks.

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