pdict(1) a perl client for accessing network dictionary servers


pdict [OPTIONS] word


pdict is a client for the Dictionary server protocol (DICT), which is used to query natural language dictionaries hosted on a remote machine. When used in the most simple way,

    % pdict word

pdict will look for definitions of word in the dictionaries hosted at dict.org. If no definitions are found, then dict will look for words which are similar, and list them:

    % pdict bonana
      no definition for "bonana" - perhaps you meant:
        banana, bonanza, Banana, Bonanza, Bonasa

This feature is only available if the remote DICT server supports the soundex or Levenshtein matching strategies. You can use the -stats switch to find out for yourself.

You can specify the hostname of the DICT server using the -h option:

    % pdict -h dict.org dictionary

A DICT server can support a number of databases; you can use the -d option to specify a particular database. For example, you can look up computer-related terms in the Free On-line Dictionary Of Computing (FOLDOC) using:

    % pdict -h dict.org -d foldoc byte

To find out what databases (dictionaries) are available on a server, use the -dbs option:

    % pdict -dbs

There are many dictionaries hosted on other servers around the net; a list of some of them can be found at



Instead of requesting word definitions, you can use pdict to request a list of words which match a pattern. For example, to look for four-letter words starting in 'b' and ending in 'p', you would use:

    % pdict -match -strategy re '^b..p$'

The -match option says you want a list of matching words rather than a definition. The -strategy re says to use POSIX regular expressions when matching the pattern ^b..p$.

Most DICT servers support a number of matching strategies; you can get a list of the strategies provided by a server using the -strats switch:

    % pdict -h dict.org -strats


-h server or -host server
The hostname for the DICT server. If one isn't specified then defaults to dict.org.
-p port or -port port
Specify the port for connections (default is 2628, from RFC 2229).
-d dbname or -database dbname
The name of a specific database (dictionary) to query.
-m or -match
Look for words which match the pattern (using the specified strategy).
-i dbname or -info dbname
Request information on the specified database. Typically results in a couple of pages of text.
-c string or -client string
Specify the CLIENT identification string sent to the DICT server.
-D or -dbs
List the available databases (dictionaries) on the DICT server.
-s strategy or -strategy strategy
Specify a matching strategy. Used in combination with -match.
-S or -strats
List the matching strategies (used in -strategy) supported by the DICT server.
-I or -serverinfo
Request information on the selected DICT server.
Display a short help message including command-line options.
Display the full documentation for pdict.
Display the version of pdict
Display verbose information as pdict runs.
Display debugging information as pdict runs. Useful mainly for developers.


  • pdict doesn't know how to handle firewalls.
  • The authentication aspects of RFC 2229 aren't currently supported.
  • Display of list results (eg from -strats and -dbs) could be better.
  • pdict isn't very smart at handling combinations of options.
  • Currently no support for a configuration file - will add one soon.


$Revision: 1.2 $


Neil Bowers <[email protected]>


Copyright (C) 2002 Neil Bowers. All rights reserved.

This script is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.