How do I create a Basic English dictionary?

This is in reference to creating a Basic English dictionary for LibreOffice.
I teach university-level Business, and I am working on a project to pull together Business texts using a very limited vocabulary, so that they are accessible to non-native speakers and are easier to translate.

I am at my wits’ end. I have spent the past several weeks trying to find instructions on how to create a new dictionary, and it seems that everything that I have found relies on Aspell. I have looked for tutorials that explain to a non-programmer how to create and use new Aspell dictionaries, and the documentation
that I have found assumes a familiarity with Aspell that I do not have.

I am running LibreOffice on Ubuntu 12.10.

Can you point me to something that explains to a reasonably clever layman how to create, install, and use an new Aspell dictionary in LibreOffice? Barring that, can you point me to a discussion board where someone like me might get help?

Perhaps just as important, how can I disable the standard dictionary, when using the custom dictionary, once I have created it?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Charles Evans

OP: @prof.evans.

Follow these steps to create a custom dictionary:

  1. From the main menu, select Tools > Spelling and Grammar
  2. Click Options
  3. Click New
  4. Enter a name for your dictionary, choose the language and click Ok
  5. Click Edit from the Options page which is still displayed
  6. In the Book dropdown, choose the dictionary you just created
  7. In the Word field, enter a new word to go into the dictionary and press Enter. The word is now added to the custom dictionary.
  8. Click Close
  9. Click Ok
  10. Click Close

You have now created a new dictionary and added a word to it.

To copy the custom dictionary to other computers, find your installation directory for LibreOffice and locate the wordbook folder as seen here:


The standard.txt file is the standard dictionary. Your custom dictionary will also be listed here. It is in text format. Click the name of your custom dictionary to open the file. You will see some settings and the word you entered below it. While the dictionary dialog in LibreOffice is recommended to add new words, it is possible to edit this file if you have a large list of words already created. Just paste the new words below the dashed line, then click File > Save in your OS window.

The standard dictionary should not be disabled or otherwise removed. One option would be to remove all the words in the standard dictionary via the dictionary dialog. Note that this does not affect any dictionaries that are installed as extensions. Go to Tools > Extension Manager to see a list of installed extensions. You will not see your custom dictionary listed here. These are installed by default and cannot be removed.

For further information, you can contact the LibreOffice User mailing list at
You will need to be subscribed to receive answers via email. See this page for more info: Mailing Lists | LibreOffice - Free Office Suite - Based on OpenOffice - Compatible with Microsoft

This was very helpful. I now see where my problem is.

I have created my new dictionary, called Global English [All]. However, in the Spelling and Grammar… window the Text Language options are English (Australia), English (South Africa), English (UK), and English (USA).

When I select [None] as the Default Language for Documents in Tools > Options… > Language Settings > Languages, the spell checker does not work, as no Text Language is available. When I reset it to English, I get the full English dictionary.

Is there any such thing as an empty language other than [None]?

You’re correct. When the language setting is set to None, it disables spellchecking. See Tools > Language > For all Text > None (do not check spelling). You may be confusing dictionaries with languages. Languages cannot be added, but dictionaries can, and must use a standard language.

It also seems that the underlying assumption is that one would add a dictionary, in order to increase the vocabulary to include technical terms. I am trying to do the opposite. I want to edit Business texts down to a very small vocabulary, in order to make them more accessible.

I would suggest contacting the LibreOffice users mailing list if you need further assistance.

If you want to exclude frequently misspelled words from being marked as misspelled, you may add them to another user-defined dictionary (like “errors.dic”). You can enable/disable this dictionary in "Options ... Writing Aids...".

(This is one of those “this seems reasonable but I haven’t actually done it” responses that are often so useless.) Probably too late for the original poster, but maybe helpful to Googlers like me:
What we want to do is replace the main dictionary with a more restricted custom one, so that all words not in the custom dictionary will be flagged. There is no “official” way to do this.
In this sort of case I would first make sure that I have everything backed up so that I can put it back the way it was, then:

  • find and delete the main dictionary file. This might work, or might make the whole program misbehave. If it works, we’re done; otherwise
  • replace the main dictionary with an empty file with the same name. If it works, we’re done; otherwise
  • replace the main dictionary by a completely different one (Chinese?) renamed to the original name. With luck, it will consider all words in an English document to be misspelt Chinese, unless in the custom dictionary (maybe it will unhelpfully offer a Chinese alternative). If it works, we’re done; otherwise
  • I’m out of ideas, but maybe these might help as a starting point.

If it works, we’re done; otherwise