Chubby: Best Paper Dictionary (first year)

Go to Amazon.comGo to It took Teddi and me about 90 seconds to admit that “Chubby” (as Teddi called him) is the best paper dictionary for an English-speaking laowai who is just starting to learn Chinese.

Chubby’s strengths include:

  • Numerous sentence examples
  • A little grammar guide
  • A little tones guide (including tone changes)
  • A measure word reference
  • Radical index (to help you look up which button on your TV remote is “on/off”)
  • Fits in my back pocket
  • I’ve found him for sale in China (usually in university bookstores)

Chubby’s weaknesses:

  • Some important vocabulary is missing (because of his compact size)
  • No sentence example for some words that really need one
  • Written, apparently, for Chinese living in England (sentence examples often include British culture like “British pounds” as the currency)
  • No Chinese pronunciation guide, only English pronunciation guide (see above)
  • Chinese side is organized by hanzi characters instead of straight alphabetical order (making it a little difficult to look up a Chinese word quickly). It’s still roughly alphabetical order, but not exactly.

But overall, there’s no comparison between Chubby and other little dictionaries. If you’re going to China and you can only take one book–or only one thing–I suggest it be Chubby.

For my review of an online dictionary click here


ISBN: 0198603649

Real (boring) title: The Oxford Chinese Minidictionary (Paperback)

Go see Chubby at

9 Replies to “Chubby: Best Paper Dictionary (first year)”

  1. Follow this link (below) to a book written in 1971. It’s a sentence dictionary, and for every word there is an example sentence in pinyin (with tones) and hanzi. Ha, ha, the hanzi is hand written, but it’s still easy to read.
    Mandarin Chinese Dictionary By Fred Fangyu Wang, Dover publications 1971,M1

    (you can read the book online through Google’s book project)

  2. My favourite is Li Dong’s “Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary” (ISBN-13: 978-0804835510). It has sentence examples for every (!) word in the dictionary, and each sentence example is transcribed in pinyin. It also provides the measure word (or measure words) for every noun, and the traditional version of every simplified character. It focuses on core characters and vocabulary, which makes it very useful for anyone who wants to take the HSK Basic exam.

    Boping Yuan, the editor of “Chubby”, also edited “Oxford Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary”, which is also nice and covers a slightly larger vocabulary but has a few drawbacks compared to Li Dong’s “Beginner’s Chinese Dictionary”: it doesn’t have example sentences for every word, it doesn’t provide the measure word(s) for the nouns (there is a separate section on measure words), and it doesn’t provide the traditional versions of simplified characters (which is probably of minor importance for a learner).

  3. My favorite dictionary to date is still my little red “Concise English- Chinese/ Chinese- English Dictionary” 精选英汉汉英词典。 I got it back in 2001 and not only are the vast majority of applicable words in it and the dictionary is holding together strong. As far as electric dictionaries go, the best buy is an ipod touch and just add an app

  4. Pingback: Chinese measure words: complete list, common measure words, top ten measure words and measure words flash cards

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