My reliable English dictionary

Despite my best efforts, my English needs constant work1. I mostly write in this language when I am online, but good prose is a matter of trying, failing, trying again, failing again, and never give up. A bloody battle of words.

An ever-present companion during my writing sessions is the dictionary. Since I don’t want distractions of any kind, I want the dictionary to be offline and easy to use. The more time I spend away from my text, the easier it is for my mind to drift off.

WordNet meets my expectations almost exactly. It’s quickly installable on my Ubuntu machine, a breeze to use, and it comes with a command-line tool (wn) and a graphical one (wnb) which are simple and fast.

However, I don’t want to leave Emacs for a task like this. I want to be able to search for the word at point or to type something and see if what I have in mind makes any sense at all. Why not taking advantage of the power of Helm? That’s why I wrote helm-wordnut.

As I explain in the README, using WordNet within Emacs was already possible through helm-wordnet and wordnut, but in both cases it doesn’t look like there is much maintenance going on. I liked the idea of the former and the nice output of the latter, and so I devised a package with what in my opinion is the simplest and ideal Helm interface for WordNet. I can type what I want or just hit M-n to pick up the word a point. Pressing RET on the desired candidate opens a buffer with a detailed definition of the word. How much detail one needs is customizable through helm-wordnut-cmd-options, but the default covers more than enough already for my usual writings.

Given the existence of helm-wordnet and wordnut, I have not published helm-wordnut on any package archive at the moment. If somebody else finds it a better alternative to the existing solutions, do reach out and let me know. I’ll see what I can do about convincing the MELPA masterminds to accept yet another WordNet front-end.


  1. The same can be said for my Italian, but let’s not dig too deep into my shortcomings please.