MDBG Online Dictionary – Tutorial

See also MDBG Online Dictionary – My review

There are two main ways to use the dictionary:

  1. Basic Word Dictionary
  2. Advanced Word Dictionary

I always start with the Basic Word Dictionary (even though sometimes I end up using some Advanced Word Dictionary tools).

Basic Word Dictionary

You can input English, pinyin, hanzi or combinations into the Basic Word search box. I’ll talk about hanzi entry below. Here’s how the English and pinyin inputs work.


  1. suddenly => displays entries containing “suddenly”
  2. sudden* => displays every entry containing “sudden” including “sudden” and “suddenly”
  3. suddenly hu => displays entries containing “suddenly” and “hu.” I use this sometimes if I’m looking for a word that means “suddenly” and I’m sure it has that pinyin “hu” in it.
  4. you yong => just like example number 3, this will display all entries that contain “you” and “yong” in any order regardless of whether they are in the pinyin or English side.
  5. youyong => this displays only entries that exactly match the pinyin syllable “you” followed immediately by “yong.” This will display all multi-syllable pinyin homonyms.
  6. “you yong” => adding quotation marks means these syllables must occur in this order, but entries may also contain other syllables.
  7. lian2 => displays entries containing pinyin “lian” that has the 2nd (rising) tone.
  8. lian2 xi => displays entries contain pinyin “lian” that has the 2nd (rising) tone and pinyin “xi” with any tone.
  9. ma5 => displays all entries containing pinyin “ma” with the neutral tone

You can display the tones as “you4” or “yòu.” I prefer the latter. To change your preference click on the little bubble thing that looks like this:


Smart searches – Basic Word Dictionary

To really track down those homonyms, you need to be able to do smart searches. Otherwise, a search for “you” will get you all the pinyin “you” entries AND the English “you” entries on one page.


  1. p:you => displays only entries containing pinyin “you”
  2. e:you => displays only entries containing English “you”
  3. pw:you => displays only exact matches containing pinyin “you” (with no other syllables)
  4. pw:you4 => displays only exact matches containing pinyin “you” with 4th tone (with no other syllables)
  5. p:you e:right => displays only entries that contain pinyin “you” and English “right”

Following hanzi rabbit trails – Start with Basic end up in Advanced

If you dump some hanzi into the Basic Word Dictionary page it will try to find a single definition. But, if you’ve thrown a whole sentence, or a line from a song (like this hanzi) in there, it will give you the following message:

By all means click that and you’ll be taken to a nice warm place where a wise old man will explain what each word means…or at least a page showing the results.

Now, let’s find out what that “lao” in “laohu” really is. Click on the little scissors tool cut.gifto separate the “lao” from the “hu”.

Now you should be on a page that shows the exact meaning of “lao” and “hu” separately. Let’s follow the trail a littler farther. Click on the isolated hanzi character for “lao” (looks like this lao.png).

Now you’re on a page that has all sorts of info about that character including the Cantonese pronunciation.

Look at the far left side of the table and you should see this:

If you want to know how to draw the character (brush strokes and all) click on the little paint brush.

If you want to see every entry in the dictionary that contains that character, click on the huge hanzi character on the far left.

This little rabbit trail has actually taken us through some of the Advanced Word Dictionary pages without our knowing it. This can be a good way to figure out what all the little pieces mean, especially if you’re trying to weave a hanzi web in your brain.

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