Scientific terms list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries

[UPDATE: This post is out of date. Please see my static page Scientific word list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries for up-to-date information about these scientific word lists. I mean, the links to the files custom_scientific_US.txt and custom_scientific_UK.txt below will take you to the updated files, because I just replaced the old files with the new files without changing the names, but the information about them is out of date. The non-dialect-specific file custom_scientific.txt is still the same, but that’s because I haven’t added anything to it, whereas I’ve added hundreds of thousands of entries to the other two.]

It is amazing how hard it is to find any list, much less a comprehensive one, of scientific terms to add to spelling dictionaries, such as those of Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, etc. Well, I decided to remedy that by putting my lists online for all to download. I’ve accumulated thousands of terms in my Microsoft Word custom dictionary over my career as a scientific editor, and I added thousands more from such sites as Rawge’s Scientific Names Spell Checker Dictionary, which actually includes several lists of various types of animals; this list of European species names; and my editing company’s house list.

One note about UK/US spellings: the file “custom_scientific” below should be rid of all UK- and US-specific spellings, such as hem-/haem-, -iter/-itre, estr-/oestr-, -ize/-ise, etc. If you find any that don’t belong, or any other typos, please please please tell me in the comments.

I’ve included three files:
custom_scientific.txt (49,552 entries): the words from the above-mentioned sources, minus UK-/US-specific spellings.

custom_scientific+US.txt (58,775 entries): custom_scientific plus all of the entries in my Microsoft Word US English spell-check dictionary that I’ve accumulated over the years. (This includes many AmE-specific spellings but also several thousand terms that have only one spelling and which therefore would belong in custom_scientific above, but I haven’t gotten around to copying and pasting the latter subset there. It also includes several foreign names, geographic locations, and words related to research institutes and departments, such as Recherche and Tecnología, because I encounter them often enough that it was preferable to add them instead of clicking “Ignore all” every damn time and/or because they aren’t similar to any mistyped English word that would need flagging and correcting.)

custom_scientific+UK.txt (52,200 entries): same as previous paragraph but for BrE.

Finally, please download these, copy them, share them, spread them, host them, correct them, add to them, and use them! The more such lists exist on the internet (and, eventually, in software spell-checkers’ native files), the better off every scientific writer, editor, researcher, and student is.

This entry was posted in Career, Language, Science, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Scientific terms list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries

  1. John says:

    To make a .txt file into a custom spelling dictionary for Microsoft Word, first save the .txt file as a .dic file. The best way I know to do this is to open it in Notepad or another text editor, save it as a Unicode file with the .txt suffix replaced with .dic. The “Save as type” dropdown menu can probably say either “All files (*.*)” or “Text Documents (*.txt)”. But just delete “.txt” and replace it with “.dic”; make sure there aren’t two suffixes. It’s probably best to save it in the folder with all of Microsoft Word’s spelling dictionaries; on my Windows 7 computer, it’s C:\Users\John\AppData\Roaming\Microsoft\UProof.

    Then open Word, go into the Options or Preferences or whatever it’s called in the Word version du jour, find the Proofing or Review or Spelling & Grammar area, and click on Custom Dictionaries. Click on Add…, browse to your new .dic file, and select it. Choose the language(s) that the dictionary will apply to (All languages, English (U.S.), English (U.K.), etc.) from the “Dictionary language” dropdown menu.

    Another way to make a custom dictionary from one of the files above is to go into the spelling and proofing options of Word as above, but click New… instead of Add…. This will prompt you to create a new spelling dictionary, and it will already be navigated to Microsoft Word’s spelling dictionaries folder. Type in whatever name you want, click Save, choose correct language. Then navigate to that folder outside of Word, open the file you’ve just created in Notepad, and paste the correct list into it.

    Note that you can use multiple spelling dictionaries for any language.

  2. John says:

    Each file I included above should have no duplicate terms. To remove duplicates from your own spell-checker lists in the future, simply open the .txt or .dic file and copy and paste everything into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet; or first go into Excel, go to Open…, find the .txt or .dic file you want, choose the “Delimited” option, check “Space” and “Tab”, choose “Text” as the Column data format, and click Finish.

    Assuming all of the terms are in column A, highlight column A by clicking on the “A” itself, then click Remove Duplicates, which is in the Data tab of the Excel 2010 ribbon but who knows where it’ll be tomorrow.

  3. John says:

    Some applications’ spell checkers prefer/require that the terms be listed in alphabetical order and that capitalized words come before lowercase. This could mean the capitalized A-words come before the lowercase A-words, the capitalized B-words come before the lowercase B-words, etc., or that all capitalized words come first and then all lowercase words come after. If you need to sort the terms according to a capitalization scheme, try the following, which worked great for me:

    Assuming the terms you want to sort begin in cell A1, add the following formula to cell B1:
    =IF(EXACT(A1,UPPER(A1)),”Upper Case”,IF(EXACT(A1,LOWER(A1)),”Lower Case”,IF(EXACT(A1,PROPER(A1)),”Proper Case”,”Other”)))

    Push your Enter key to accept the formula. Click in cell B1. Hover the mouse over the bottom-right corner of cell B1 so that a little cross or square appears, and double-click. This will make “Upper Case”, “Proper Case”, “Lower Case”, or “Other” appear in column B. That itself doesn’t sort anything, but this does:

    Highlight all of column A and column B. Click Sort in the Data menu. First, sort by column B alphabetically. I recommend choosing Z to A so that Upper Case comes first, Proper Case comes second, and Lower Case comes at the end. (There will probably be some Other in there, so do what you want with those. I left them alone.) Then click Add Level or something similar to add a secondary sort filter. Choose column A, and sort from A to Z.

    This procedure puts the all-capitalized terms first, sorted alphabetically, followed by the terms with only the first letter capitalized (proper case), sorted alphabetically, followed by all-lowercase terms and differently capitalized terms, each sorted alphabetically. Then you can copy and paste column A wherever you need.

  4. Jeremy Winders says:

    1) Thank you so much for this file! It is awesome!
    2) I run OS X , so converting to unicode then .dic was a little different for me. I have the (USA English) .dic file (17MB) and would gladly send it to you. Having the .dic file on your site would be a very nice thing.

  5. John says:


    Sure, you can email it to my first name at the domain name. Would you mind posting the steps you took to convert the .txt files to unicode then .dic? I’d like to post the instructions for Mac OS if they’re substantially different.


  6. Kiley says:

    John, thank you so much for making this available. I am a graduate student working in the field of wildlife biology and have hardly had to add any words to my dictionary since downloading your file. I find it hard to believe more people haven’t left comments for you here. I agree with Jeremy, why don’t you just make the .dic file available as opposed to the .txt file? These days, on a relatively new computer, notepad is able to handle the job easily enough, but why make thousands of people go through the extra step when you can upload the compatible file once? It is only a suggestion, so don’t let that overshadow my appreciation for the work you have done updating the file on a regular basis. You seem to be the only person out there doing this!

    Additionally, I have sifted through more of your blag and thoroughly enjoy your fondness of The Simpsons. You seem like a cool dude.

  7. John says:


    There was…some reason I chose to upload the .txt files instead of .dic files. Maybe the way Microsoft Word works on my Windows 7 computer, or the differences between different word processors or operating systems and some incompatibilities?… I don’t remember, but I’ll probably simply upload the .dic files the next time I update the lists, which should be this month or next (it’s been over a year! wow!), and let people sort it out however they can.

  8. John says:

    I’ve finally updated the spell-check files and uploaded them in .dic format! As usual, download them from my static page Scientific word list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries. (I guess it’s not really static, is it? Ah, well, WordPress calls it a “page”, as distinguished from a “post”.)

  9. Kiley says:

    Hi John, it’s me from up above again. How difficult would it be to put a submission form on your dictionary page for people to suggest new words? I have no idea how many hits your website gets or how heavily a submission form would be utilized. If you get a small number of user submitted suggestions it would be easy enough to verify the validity and spelling of words before adding them to the list. If you get thousands of user-submitted suggestions it probably would not be feasible unless you have a helper monkey. My two most recent words not included on the list are “Lutjanidae” (fish family) and “herpetofauna” (word used to describe species of reptile and amphibian as a whole for a given area).

    I can’t wait to eat that monkey.

  10. John says:


    Yes, a submission form is a good idea. I should have some free time this Christmas to figure out how to add one to the bottom of the page. Thanks for that suggestion and for the two words.

  11. Freda says:

    John, thank you *so* much. This is going to be very useful for me as an editor/translator of scientific literature.