4 Reliable Chinese Pinyin Dictionary Apps for Understanding New Words on the Go
Remember when you were a bright-eyed, novice Chinese learner and first looked at 拼音 (pīn yīn) — Chinese romanization?
Pinyin might have seemed confusing at first, but it’s actually quite simple to get the hang of reading pinyin and speaking with tones.
However, sometimes you’ll come across a word that leaves you scratching your head.
Luckily, there are a few pinyin dictionary apps out there that can make mastering these weird pinyin words easy.
- 1. Pleco Chinese Dictionary
- 2. Chinese Pinyin Trainer Lite
- 3. Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary
- 4. Hanping Chinese Dictionary
- Why Use a Chinese Pinyin Dictionary?
1. Pleco Chinese Dictionary
iOS | Android
Summary: Pleco is the most well-known Chinese dictionary app for learners, with pinyin and handwriting lookup.
Why download it?
As a Chinese dictionary, Pleco’s most beneficial feature is the ability to type a pinyin word and see both the Chinese characters and English definition for the word.
Pleco made our list of pinyin dictionary apps simply because the pinyin lookup system within the app is quick, accurate and easy to read. Even without tone numbers, you can look up multiple pinyin letters at once in the search bar and get a pretty generous result of possible words and meanings. What else could you want in a pinyin dictionary app?
- Live camera character lookup
- A document and screen reader (only available for the Android version)
- A massive dictionary containing thousands of Chinese hanzi and pinyin words that you can look up in bulk
- Audio pronunciation
- Handwriting lookup
Cost: Free, with an upgrade needed for add-ons like camera lookup and text file reader
2. Chinese Pinyin Trainer Lite
iOS | Android
Summary: Chinese Pinyin Trainer Lite helps you get better at listening comprehension through pinyin quizzes and drills.
Why download it?
If you’re looking for a pinyin dictionary app that focuses on spoken Chinese, this one is worth checking out. Chinese Pinyin Trainer Lite is also great for learners who want a pinyin dictionary with quiz and flashcard features rather than something solely for looking up unfamiliar pinyin.
Chinese Pinyin Trainer Lite is a simple pinyin dictionary at its core, but it also has a lot of additional traits, most notably an accurate Chinese-English dictionary.
- DIY pinyin knowledge testing and scoring
- Commonly confused word distinction
- Tone sketching mode in which you draw pinyin words to respond to audio questions
- Several thousand clear and crisp audio recordings
- Flashcard integration so you can save bulk amounts of pinyin words to study later
- A complex guide for beginner pinyin readers
Cost: Free, but needs an upgrade for many features
3. Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary
Summary: With Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary, you can quickly check the pinyin of a Chinese character and vice-versa.
Why download it?
Some of you may just want a simple, user-friendly Chinese pinyin dictionary app with two main features: the ability to look up Chinese characters and their definitions by typing pinyin and the ability to look up the pinyin pronunciation of Chinese characters.
If you’re looking for something dependable and free, Hanyu Pinyin Dictionary from Chun Kai Lau is perfect for you.
- The ability to search for hanzi by typing pinyin, and vice-versa
- A handwritten hanzi feature
- Thousands of dictionary words in Chinese
- Audio clips for all pinyin
- A bookmark feature for easy reference of common words
- Multiple search languages other than English
Cost: Free, with a paid premium version available if you want a widget feature and an ad-free experience
4. Hanping Chinese Dictionary
Summary: Hanping Chinese Dictionary goes beyond the regular dictionary features, featuring a pinyin soundboard plus looking up words by tone pair.
Why download it?
Hanping Chinese Dictionary fulfills the most basic function of a pinyin dictionary: you can look up words based on their pinyin. Other lookup options include voice recognition, handwriting, and selecting characters by their radicals.
What makes it a standout, though, is it has other cool features for free, such as a pinyin soundboard—click on any pinyin, and you’ll hear a clear pronunciation of it. You can also filter words based on tone pair for practice (the third tone-second tone combination is especially tricky!). The app lets you add tags and notes too to save specific words for later studying.
- Dictionary entries with relatable example sentences
- Handwriting and voice recognition
- Complete pinyin soundboard
- The ability to add notes and tags to each word
- Automatic list of HSK words per level
- Extensive tone pair lists
Cost: Free, but needs add-ons for advanced features like camera lookup and flashcards
Why Use a Chinese Pinyin Dictionary?
- Sometimes you’ll need to look up specific pinyin on the go. You can easily look up pinyin from your computer if you have it on you, but occasionally you need to look up something immediately while you’re out and about or traveling in a Chinese-speaking area. Smartphone apps make this super easy.
- Most Chinese-English dictionaries focus on hanzi, not pinyin. Having a pinyin dictionary on hand helps you cover your bases. Maybe you’re listening to music or having a conversation, and there’s a Chinese word that flies over your head. A pinyin dictionary can help you figure out what that unfamiliar word means with ease and accuracy.
- They can be handy to have if you’re watching a Chinese film and don’t recognize a word. Don’t want to get up and type away on your laptop to figure out what word someone used during a Chinese drama binge-athon? Just use your Chinese pinyin dictionary app!
Having a Chinese pinyin dictionary app on hand can be incredibly useful for understanding new Chinese words, whether you’re watching native content or you’re wondering about an unfamiliar word you overheard. Another handy tool would be FluentU, which lets you pick up vocabulary quickly from clips of Chinese movie trailers, interviews and other videos.
Every clip has interactive subtitles that act as an automatic dictionary, explaining every word in the video for Chinese learners. The subtitles include pinyin too:
With a tap, you can check the information for each word, access other videos with the same word and create flashcards. There are also post-video quizzes that include speaking exercises and questions in pinyin.
FluentU has a mobile app (iOS or Android) for on-the-go learning, as well as a web version.
Pinyin dictionaries can be elusive, especially in app form. Thankfully, one of these four Chinese pinyin dictionaries should be able to cover all your needs.