dict - Man Page

DICT Protocol Client

Examples (TL;DR)


dict word
dict [options] [word]
dict [options] dict://host:port/d:word:database
dict [options] dict://host:port/m:word:database:strategy


dict is a client for the Dictionary Server Protocol (DICT), a TCP transaction based query/response protocol that provides access to dictionary definitions from a set of natural language dictionary databases. Exit status is 0 if operation succeeded, or non-zero otherwise.
See Exit Status section.


-h server or --host server

Specifies the hostname for the DICT server.  Server/port combinations can be specified in the configuration file.  If no servers are specified in the configuration file or or on the command line, dict will fail.  (This is a compile-time option, ./configure --enable-dictorg, which is disabled by default.)  If IP lookup for a server expands to a list of IP addresses (as dict.org does currently), then each IP will be tried in the order listed.

-p service or --port service

Specifies the port (e.g., 2628) or service (e.g., dict) for connections. The default is 2628, as specified in the DICT Protocol RFC.  Server/port combinations can be specified in the configuration file.

-d dbname or --database dbname

Specifies a specific database to search.  The default is to search all databases (a "*" from the DICT protocol).  Note that a "!" in the DICT protocol means to search all of the databases until a match is found, and then stop searching.

-m or --match

Instead of printing a definition, perform a match using the specified strategy.

-s strategy or --strategy strategy

Specify a matching strategy.  By default, the server default match strategy is used.  This is usually "exact" for definitions, and some form of spelling-correction strategy for matches ("." from the DICT protocol). The available strategies are dependent on the server implementation.  For a list of available strategies, see the -S or --strats option.

-C or --nocorrect

Usually, if a definition is requested and the word cannot be found, spelling correction is requested from the server, and a list of possible words are provided.  This option disables the generation of this list.

-c file or --config file

Specify the configuration file.  The default is to try ~/.dictrc and /etc/dict.conf, using the first file that exists.  If a specific configuration file is specified, then the defaults will not be tried.

-D or --dbs

Query the server and display a list of available databases.

-S or --strats

Query the server and display a list of available search strategies.

-H or --serverhelp

Query the server and display the help information that it provides.

-i dbname or --info dbname

Request information on the specified database (usually the server will provide origination, descriptive, or other information about the database or its contents).

-I or --serverinfo

Query the server and display information about the server.

-M or --mime

Send OPTION MIME command to the server.
NOTE: Server's capabilities are not checked.

-f or --formatted

Enables formatted output, i.e. output convenient for postprocessing by standard UNIX utilities. No, it is not XML ;-) Also error and warning messages like
" No matches...", " Invalid strategy..." etc. are sent to stderr, not to stdout.
-I, -i, -H and similar:
   host<TAB>port<TAB>strategy1<TAB>short description1
   host<TAB>port<TAB>strategy2<TAB>short description2
   host<TAB>port<TAB>database1<TAB>database description1
   host<TAB>port<TAB>database2<TAB>database description2

-a or --noauth

Disable authentication (i.e., don't send an AUTH command).

-u user or --user user

Specifies the username for authentication.

-k key or --key key

Specifies the shared secret for authentication.

-V or --version

Display version information.

-L or --license

Display copyright and license information.


Display help information.

-v or --verbose

Be verbose.

-r or --raw

Be very verbose: show the raw client/server interaction.


Specify the buffer size for pipelineing commands.  The default is 256, which should be sufficient for general tasks and be below the MTU for most transport media.  Larger values may provide faster or slower throughput, depending on MTU.  If the buffer is too small, requests will be serialized.  Values less than 0 and greater than one million are silently changed to something more reasonable.

--client text

Specifies additional text to be sent using the CLIENT command.

--debug flag

Set a debugging flag.  Valid flags are:


The same as -v or --verbose.


The same as -r or --raw.


Debug the scanner for the configuration file.


Debug the parser for the configuration file.


Debug TCP pipelining support (see the DICT RFC and RFC1854).


Disable pipelining support.


Perform transaction timing.


The configuration file currently has a very simple format.  Lines are used to specify servers, for example:

server dict.org

or, with options:

server dict.org { port 8080 }
server dict.org { user username secret }
server dict.org { port dict user username secret }

the port and user options may be specified in any order.  The port option is used to specify an optional port (e.g., 2628) or service (e.g., dict) for the TCP/IP connection.  The user option is used to specify a username and shared secret to be used for authentication to this particular server.

Servers are tried in the order listed until a connection is made.  If none of the specified servers are available, and the compile-time option (./configure --enable-dictorg) is enabled, then an attempt will be made to connect on localhost and on dict.org at the standard part (2628).  (This option is disabled by default.) We expect that dict.org will point to one or more DICT servers (perhaps in round-robin fashion) for the foreseeable future (starting in July 1997), although it is difficult to predict anything on the Internet for more than about 3-6 months.

Exit Status

0  Successful completion

20 No matches found
21 Approximate matches found
22 No databases available
23 No strategies available

30 Unexpected response code from server
31 Server is temporarily unavailable
32 Server is shutting down
33 Syntax error, command not recognized
34 Syntax error, illegal parameters
35 Command not implemented
36 Command parameter not implemented
37 Access denied
38 Authentication failed
39 Invalid database
40 Invalid strategy
41 Connection to server failed


dict was written by Rik Faith (faith@cs.unc.edu) and is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License.  If you need to distribute under other terms, write to the author.

The main libraries used by this programs (zlib, regex, libmaa) are distributed under different terms, so you may be able to use the libraries for applications which are incompatible with the GPL -- please see the copyright notices and license information that come with the libraries for more information, and consult with your attorney to resolve these issues.


If a dict: URL is given on the command line, only the first one is used.  The rest are ignored.

If a dict: URL contains a specifier for the nth definition or match of a word, it will be ignored and all the definitions or matches will be provided.  This violates the RFC, and will be corrected in a future release.

If a dict: URL contains a shared secret, it will not be parsed correctly.

When OPTION MIME command is sent to the server (-M option) , server's capabilities are not checked.



User's dict configuration file


System dict configuration file

See Also

dictd(8), dictzip(1), http://www.dict.org, RFC 2229

Referenced By

colorit(1), dictd(8), dictfmt(1), dictl(1), dict_lookup(1), dictzip(1), mate-dictionary(1).

15 February 1998