Hover Mouse over Hanzi, Get Pinyin and English

[Update: Thanks to all those who left comments and recommendations. I’ve added them to the post]

Since the last time I talked (asked) about this was in 2007, I thought an update was in order.

If you want to put your mouse over hanzi (like this: 汉字) and get pinyin and English, I only know of a few options (please feel free to add to this list).

Browser Plugins

These are little programs that run only inside your Internet browsers. They’re all free, but only work for web pages (i.e. not MS Word, etc.).

  • Chrome: Zhongwen – I’m trying this right now and I think it’s mostly good.
  • FireFox and Chrome: Perapera-kun – I haven’t tried the newest version yet but others have recommended it to me.


These are programs that run in your computer’s “system tray” (down near the clock in the lower right) and can be used for any Chinese text on your whole computer including web pages, MS Word, Excel, Notepad, etc.. I only know of one right now.

For Windows

  • MDBG Chinese Reader – I use this all the time and really like it. I haven’t tried the newest version, but there is now a free version (which I’ve also not tried), which is cool. It takes a really long time to start the program. But once you’ve got it loaded, you can turn it on and off without closing it.
  • Lingoes – Recommended by Zhangyanglu and Simake

For Mac

For Phones and Mobile Devices

Please feel free to leave comments and recommendations and I’ll add them into the main body of the article as they come in.

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  1. 21 Responses to “Hover Mouse over Hanzi, Get Pinyin and English”

  2. PJ SPAIN said:


    I use Chrome on MAc and Zhongwen works perfectly well . Perapera chinese pop up dictionay for Chrome is another option, very similar to Zhongwen and it works in Mac as long as i use Chrome.

    Regards ,

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  3. Zhangyanglu SPAIN said:

    I use Lingoes with the “CEDIT Chinese-English dictionary”, works in IE as well as in other applications…

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  4. bob56 said:

    Why have you listed the browser plugins under windows? Works on Mac and Linux too.

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  5. Alastair GERMANY said:

    As PJ has mentioned, Perapera has recently been ported to Google Chrome, where it works as well as ever.

    Mandarinspot (http://mandarinspot.com/annotate) will add such hovering annotations to web pages and will work on any platform, including Android and, presumably, the iPhone.

    I just installed Pleco on my Android phone yesterday. It has a module named Reader. You can send text to this from external programs. This text will be stripped of formatting but it will have these style of annotation bubbles added. See here for screenshots – http://www.pleco.com/anmanual/reader.html

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  6. Simake UNITED STATES said:

    As mentioned by Zhangyanglu, Lingoes performs this function, but by “highlighting” rather than “mousing over”. In addition, one is not limited to only CEDIT but can download/use a wide variety of (free) dictionaries including Chinese->Chinese when you’re ready. There is also an example sentences “dictionary” (Jukuu) as well as topical specialty dictionaries. (Works well with 64-bit Windows 7.)

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  7. Rob UNITED KINGDOM said:

    http://xiaocidian.com does that on Mac

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  8. Albert UNITED STATES said:


    So…is http://mandarinspot.com/annotate for pasting webpages into or how does it work?

    And as for http://www.pleco.com/anmanual/reader.html is it an Android thing for phones or is there a Windows versions too?

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  9. Albert UNITED STATES said:

    @Everyone Else So Far,

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve made the changes to the post!

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  10. Aaron JAPAN said:

    Pleco (http://www.pleco.com/) for iOS, Android, etc. has a file reader feature where you can tap on any character to get a popup definition.

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  11. Aaron JAPAN said:

    Oops, I see Pleco has already been mentioned. Sorry!

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  12. Alastair GERMANY said:

    @Albert “So…is http://mandarinspot.com/annotate for pasting webpages into or how does it work?” You can paste text into a form or you can give it a URL. When you use a URL, not only does the original page get annotated, but also any link you follow from there. That works well on my phone, where the browsers do not have a Perapera plugin.

    “And as for http://www.pleco.com/anmanual/reader.html is it an Android thing for phones or is there a Windows versions too?” Android, iOS, Windows Mobile and Palm OS. No desktop operating systems and no Windows 7. http://www.pleco.com/products.html

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  13. Ron Raffensperger UNITED STATES said:

    Another “mouse-over” product, also free is 金山词霸2011 from Kingsoft. I have been using it and predecessors for a few years and really like it. I tried MDBG but the “free” version is constantly bugging about the “Trial” ending. It’s output also takes up more screen space. I heard that Google helped Kingsoft on this, but don’t know if it is true.

    Comment date: Jan 31, 2012

  14. Albert UNITED STATES said:

    @Ron Raffensperger,

    Do you have a link for the Kingsoft product? I’ll add it to the list if you do. Thanks!

    Comment date: Feb 1, 2012

  15. John UNITED STATES said:

    I have Pleco for the smartphone, but I still got Nciku for the smartphone to complement Pleco. It has more sample sentences and built in stroke order and the layout is cleaner. Plus there are HSK and CLEP vocabulary lists.

    Comment date: Feb 2, 2012

  16. Abby CHINA said:

    Any recommendations for a truly system-wide program for Macs? I used to use Kingsoft Powerword (金山词霸) on my old PC and haven’t found anything similar yet for Macs. I’m very close to getting Bootcamp+Windows for my Macbook in order to use Powerword again.

    I’ve tried Xiaocidian for Mac, but it’s not really system wide. (It wont work in Office programs, at least.) It’s also not really a popup dictionary, as you have to first highlight the word, and then click an excessive keyboard combination (Ctrl+Cmd+D). The beauty of Powerword is that it shows you the words automatically, so you don’t have to recognize where it starts and ends.

    Comment date: Feb 16, 2012

  17. languagedan UNITED STATES said:

    I have been a long-time user of MDBG Chinese Reader (1 yr). Rich in functionality, it is a great tool for those wanting more than a simple definition popup (supports copy/paste, character break-down, etc.). The only caveat, is that it has been proven to be very buggy for me. I used versions 3.x & 4.x and both gave me innumerable troubles from day one. Reader 4.x is not supported on Firefox 10 (in my case, takes up to 10 seconds for popup to appear) so be aware of this. To his credit, the developer is very supportive and responsive, so if you’re willing to work through the quirks, you may find the product useful. If you’re lucky, the product just works, and will be worth your investment (I paid $59 for 3.x, then additional $10 for upgrade to 4.x). Due to the issues with Firefox 10, I just installed the Perapera plug-in and am very pleased with the performance. Will use this inside Firefox and limit my usage of MDBG Reader to other apps (text editors, OpenOffice, etc.). Good luck!

    Comment date: Feb 23, 2012

  18. languagedan UNITED STATES said:

    Correction: The versions I used were 5.x and 6.x respectively.

    Comment date: Feb 23, 2012

  19. Trevor Higbee said:

    +1 for Perapera-kun. Nice and simple with easy and free installation.

    For my own study I built a little web app. It’s at http://trevorschinesereader.com/Default.aspx?c=custom.

    The reason I like it is:
    –Keeps track of the characters I’ve clicked on so I can review easily.
    –Gives you lists of similar-looking characters as you click and read.
    –Shows you other words with that character in it.
    –You can click a button in the menu and it will color-code the characters based on frequency.

    This last one is really helpful for me b/c as a beginner in Chinese, it’s nice to know what characters to focus on learning and which to maybe save for later.

    Comment date: Feb 27, 2012

  20. languagedan UNITED STATES said:

    Update: MDBG Reader supports Firefox 10 and 11 just fine now (since late Feb in fact).

    Comment date: Apr 19, 2012

  21. Anton said:

    The best one for Android is Pinyiner https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.astratech.chinesereader_free
    It shows pinyin above the words (can also disable this), can add words to favorites and export them to Anki flashcards for review..

    Comment date: Jul 5, 2014

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