I would like to use the spellchecking dictionaries bundled with OS X from the command line (hunspell), but can't seem to find them. In /System/Library/Spelling there are only 2 files pl_PL.{aff,dic}, and find / -name '*.dic' revealed nothing.

I know I can dowload dictionaries from OpenOffice etc., but I'd like to find the ones bundled with OS X.

EDIT To clarify, there are at least two kinds of dictionaries in OS X:

  • Definitions used in Dictionary.app. I'm not interested in those.
  • Word lists used by the system spellchecker (red dotted lines). I know OS X uses hunspell because the hunspell website says so, and there are numerous posts on how to add new ones (1, 2). Just, I don't want to add new ones but use the English one that obviously comes with the system.
  • What build of hunspell is in play? (as it's not explicitly included as a command line tool on OS X - adding that detail might help you get a better quality answer.) Another answer here shows that the spell check routines for TextEdit source words from the same place as Dictionary app - so be clear to explain how your problem is different than locating /Library/Dictionary or ~/Library/Dictionary
    – bmike
    Aug 3, 2013 at 18:24
  • @bmike libhunspell is in /usr/lib/libhunspell- I'm not sure which of the answers you're referring to, the top-rated answer copied words from Wikipedia? Another answer + comments in this thread however is correct and exactly what I'm after (apple.stackexchange.com/a/21446/54379)
    – thpani
    Aug 3, 2013 at 19:35
  • Now that you have added information to your question it makes more sense so my answer was wrong and I removed it.
    – Ruskes
    Aug 3, 2013 at 20:15
  • /usr/share/dict there is a words file in there
    – tik27
    Aug 3, 2013 at 20:29
  • @thipani, libhunspell is a library and not callable directly from the command line, what is hunspell
    – mmmmmm
    Aug 4, 2013 at 0:08

3 Answers 3


The spelling dictionaries you are interested in appear to be located in the following location (checked on 10.8.4 and 10.6.8):


The word lists are stored in this directory by language, so U.S. English is in the English.lproj folder.

However, these files are stored in a binary format that I haven't deciphered yet...


Under macOS Catalina...

There are two locations:

  • /System/Library/Services/AppleSpell.service/Contents/Resources/AppleSpell.8
  • /Users/${HOME}/Library/Dictionaries/

The first is the system spell check dictionary and the second is the user dictionary that is created/modified when the user adds a learned word. The second one can be edited using any standard text editor.


On macOS Sonoma (14.4), the ~/Library/Spelling/LocalDictionary seems to remain unchanged regardless of the words added to / removed from the system dictionary.

By inspecting the files opened by the AppleSpell process, I was able to identify another file which appears to contain the user dictionary word list:

~/Library/Group Containers/group.com.apple.AppleSpell/Library/Spelling/LocalDictionary

Editing the contents of this file appears to work.

After editing, you will need to either log out / in or restart your Mac. (Simply restarting the AppleSpell process doesn't seem to be enough.)

Tangential note: It's rumored that it's important to maintain the word list in the LocalDictionary file in alphabetical order (the system seems to), but I haven't tested or verified this.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .