Military Dictionary, and other specialized dictionaries

Mike, I know your too busy to think about specialized dictionaries right now, but stash this one away for later consideration. A while back we were looking for a decent military dictionary to add to Pleco, and all we were finding were PLA publishing house (unlikely to sell rights to a digital version to us foreigners), or other dictionaries too old to be in digital form (the old British in Hong Kong Military dictionary is around a lot, but not likely digital). I JUST FOUND A GREAT OPTION!!!

Shanghai Cishu Chubanshe 上海辞书出版社 has a series of specialized dictionaries titled 社会科学简明词典系列 including the 简明军事词典 and 简明法律词典 among the 14 titles. I have the military one in hard copy and with the capabilities of 2.0 I think it would be perfect. While it's size, shape and name (concise 简明) may suggest it isn't comprehensive enough or have a large enough vocabulary, in my initial use of this I have been very impressed by the organization, kind of military vocabulary, clarity of explanations/definitions, and accuracy from a military stand-point of those definitions. But, I'm not yet a very experienced dictionary nut, so I don't know how to compare the number of words, appendices, organization and structure, etc. in comparison to other dictionaries.

Oh, and its... Chinese-Chinese. I think for the specialized dictionaries an actual definition is much more useful than the "one Chinese word equals one English word" simplicity of a Han-Ying version. For example I have seen all of the following translated as "Operation/s/al" in a military sense - 战役,行动,作战 depending on context. Likewise I have seen places where 作战 should be translated in English as operations, combat, warfighting, etc. In a Chinese to Chinese dictionary instead of one of these words, you get a full understanding of the word's meaning and use. 作战 for example gives a 91 character explanation including two distinct different definitions/uses for the word, and it is one of the shorter definition in the book. As a side note, although this kind of s civilian publishing house military dictionary is obviously not authoritative and may include some errors a military guy could squabble over, I've checked a few against the PLA's (解放军出版社) 1997 junyu (军语) and several have been the same definition or almost the same retaining the meaning. I've also found the definitions fairly easy to read and grasp in Chinese for most entries I've looked up so far, and especially with the pop-up dictionary function this kind of Ch-Ch definition should be very useful even for lower intermediate users. I'd guess that your specialized dictionary efforts really aren't aimed at beginners anyway, as its hard enough to use technical or professional language correctly in a mother tongue, let alone a second language.

Anyway, you may want to look into it. I thought you'd have the skills to evaluate it as a dictionary, and I can get you more opinions on its usefulness/accuracy in military matters if you need - though I vouch for that part as one potential user. Likewise, I have no idea of the rest of the set are good, but if it turns out that way, you may be able to work a set license agreement of some kind. I have no idea how to find out if they have a digital version, but I'm guessing with a 2007 publication date its highly likely. Here's the data, let me know if you need anything else from inside the back cover.

2007年4月第1版, 2007年4月第1次印刷
ISBN 978-7-5326-2238-2

Oh, and one last question. I'm curious what the license fee would cost, in case one of our military schools or units could be convinced to buy the license and work a deal for you to put it into Pleco for us.

Thanks Mike, now get back to getting 2.0 out :) :)


Staff member
Thanks for the note on this. If it's that new it certainly should exist in an electronic format, but it might be tough to justify licensing / converting this without some sort of arrangement with the military - wouldn't even necessarily need to be you guys signing the license (something which I imagine might be complicated given that it's with a Chinese publisher) but we'd probably need at least some sort of minimum order guarantee. We'll certainly take a look at it though and see if it's feasible for use in Pleco - the military's a pretty big part of our user base (as I've said here before, we have more customers in Monterey than in all of the rest of California put together) and if we can make the numbers work out we'd certainly be interested in doing a military dictionary.

As far as what a license like this would cost, that can really vary widely - we've seen some licenses with no royalty advance at all and others that can cost tens of thousands of dollars. For a specialty title like this I imagine it wouldn't quite get that high, but along with the royalty advance there's also the question of document conversion costs - some publishers with an eye towards electronic licensing are doing their own software-friendly XML conversions of new dictionaries, but with others all they can give you are the raw prepress files and it takes a considerable investment of time and money to turn those into usable data. (even very new titles will often only be available in that sort of format)
Thanks Mike, when you get a chance to look into this, hit me off list with some idea of how many minimum order or what it would cost, or if one of our schools or units decided to bulk order how many licensed copies would make it worth while, etc. I'm not directly tied in to the money on this right now, but am highly motivated to make it work. If you can get a rough guestimate then maybe I can start trying to test the waters for interest.

Mike, for some reason I got a notification e-mail today that there had been an update to this thread, when I follow the link the last message is something like Oct 2008. Well anyway, I'll use this excuse to bug you about this old topic.

Any time to look into licensing a military dictionary? I'd still be interested in asking folks in a few different military schools or units to find money if I knew you had approached a publisher and knew roughly the cost of a contract to buy rights/licenses, etc.

I now have a few paper military dictionaries that would be interesting, including one that is actually a fairly decent sized dictionary titled something like "Mainland Commonly Used Terms" and has about 8 or 9 catagorized sections, only one of which is Military Terms. This dictionary is published in Taiwan for the purpose of citing definitions from Mainland source references to explain the differences between how Mainlanders use mandarin from the vocabulary in Taiwan. This might be of perticular interest to a wider customer base than just military folks. It is also a dictionary with the definitions all in traditional characters, so may serve another study purpose for student seeking to broaden their understanding of Chinese in that direction.

Another option that would be GREAT is a military edition of a "dacihai" published by the same Shanghai company in the example I posted last year in a message above. This is presented in an encyclopdie type format but has a large military specific vocabulary and while published by a civil publishing house has a loooooong list of PLA organizations who were given substantive editorial review, so should be fairly authoritative for a civil publication on military issues.

Anyway, please let me know if you are interested or able to pursue getting a military dictionary (or a dictionary with a sizable military section) licensed. And as always, thanks for all the work on the greatest tool for Chinese learners ever!


Staff member
That was another spammer - they're getting prevalent enough that I'm starting to consider restricting PlecoForums to paid customers only, or at least requiring users to get manually checked / approved before posting if we don't have your e-mail in our customer database; anyone would still be able to read the forums, we'd just require a little extra effort to be able to post.

On the military dictionary, we're certainly still interested in that but we won't really have the time for it until after the iPhone version is out - after that we can definitely look into it, though. After the Wiseman borderline-fiasco I'd really rather not pursue any more specialty dictionary licenses until we're certain we'll have time to deal with all of the potential conversion issues - it would definitely also help if we could line up some customers for it in advance.