Artha – simple but powerful offline dictionary

1. Introduction

Dictionary is one of the tools many people need on a computer, specially offline dictionary. In this tutorial, I will talk about such a software called Artha. According to its man page “Artha is cross-platform thesaurus based on WordNet“.

2. Installation

Artha depends on wordnet, therefore if you install the package “artha“, you get both Artha and wordnet command line tool. Search your distribution’s package manager and install it. On a Ubuntu like OS, you can also install it using following command in a terminal.

sudo apt-get install artha

After installation, all you have to do is run the software and start searching.

If you want it to be available all the time, you can also add it as an startup application (which I recommend). Open up Start Applications and Add an entry with following information.

Name: Artha
Command: artha


Next time, when you login to your Desktop, it should be available. An icon should show up in notification area (it does not show up in Unity because of changes in notify-osd). If you want to search the meaning of a word, say while browsing the web, or reading a book, highlight the target word and press Ctrl + Alt + W. This should open up Artha, with meanings of the word.

If you want to change the shortcut to something else, you can do so by going to Preferences (when Artha is opened) and typing your favorite key combination in the Global Lookup Hotkey textbox.

3. Usage

Based on simple and advanced modes (which you can change), Artha shows lots of information e.g synonyms, similar words, kind of, kinds, parts, examples etc. These options vary depending upon what has been recorded in the wordnet database.


If you misspell a word, it presents you with a list of suggestions. You can go through previous searches by clicking the drop-down near the search textbox or by pressing up and down arrow on your keyboard. You can also use wild card characters like *, if you don’t know the whole word. To see some examples, see the example section in the manual page.

man artha


Next time when you want to search for the meaning of certain word, just press Ctrl + Alt + W and start searching, or highlight a word and press the key combination.

One nice feature some users might prefer is, artha can also show meanings using the notification in the panel. In ubuntu, to get the feature you can install the latest version using following ppa.

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:legends2k/artha
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install artha


4. Command line tool – wordnet

Artha might be the best tool for most use cases, but there are some scenarios where you might want to use a command line tool. E.g Because of the type of magazine or document you are reading, words might not be selectable. In such cases, command line tool with transparent terminal could be quite handy for typing the word.

If you want to search meaning of a word in wordnet, all you have to do is type the following command

wn search-term -over

Here search-term is the word you want to search the meaning of and -over is the command line parameter for overview. Writing -over every time you want to search for something is not that useful. Therefore you could create a script, that solves this problem.

Create a file say mean (short for meaning) inside bin directory of you home folder, with following text

wn $1 -over
echo "----"
echo ""

Make it executable

chmod +x mean

By default bin directory is not recognizable in your terminal. To make it executable, you need to add it to PATH environment variable. Open up .bashrc using gedit and add or edit the PATH variable at the end, as shown below.

gedit ~/.bashrc
export PATH=$PATH:~/bin

After you logout and login (or reboot), you should have the command setup to do the searching. Use following command to search.

mean search-term



Offline dictionary software are useful for most people, specially students and non-native English speakers. Software like Artha and wordnet are very helpful to quickly look up word-meanings. I hope, this tutorial was helpful.



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