Review of Best Spanish-English, English-Spanish Dictionary App for iPhone

Updated: April 27, 2012

Are you looking for an overview of the best iPhone App for Spanish to English / English to Spanish Dictionary iPhone App Review?

Full disclosure: While I work for none of these companies, Ascendo sent us a free trial of their software for review. The comparisons below are obviously skewed by my experience. I also need better coverage of Collins and Ultralingua, so please, app developers, contact me if you would like to see your app reviewed here.

NOTE: Grading Scale: 0=unavailable, 1=good, 2=better, and 3=best.

Core Features Oxford Ascendo Wordreference
Price 2 2 3
Works Offline 3 3 0
Speed of lookups 3 2 1
Ease of finding information 3 2 2
Jargon (e.g. loquacious, thrombosis) 2 2 3
Phrasal verbs (e.g. come in, work out) 2 2 3
Breadth of terminology 2 2 3
Quality of phrases 2 2 3
Verb conjugations - quality and number 2 3 3
Spoken Pronunciation 0 2 2
Written Pronunciation 3 0 3
Score (higher is better) 24 22 26
Optional Features Oxford Ascendo Wordreference
Navigation (e.g. switching languages) 1 3 2
Games 0 2 0
Record your own Audio 0 2 0
Flash cards 0 3 0
History 3 3 2
E-mail terms 3 3 0
Share terms online 3 3 3
Score (higher is better) 9 16 5
Combined Score 33 38 31

Discussion and Review

After recently spending time comparing these software packages (sorry, I have not yet purchased Ultralingua and Collins to properly compare them), I prefer the free Wordreference app and, for the excellent offline and navigation features, Ascendo over my previous recommendation of Oxford Spanish English Dictionary.

No matter which app you purchase, the most important criterion is the database--that is, whose dictionary source is "under the hood." After all, most app creators have arrangements with the finite number of high quality Spanish-English (paper) dictionaries on the market. Arguably though, Encyclopedia Britannica has lost to the crowd-sourced competition (Wikipedia), so you should unquestionably learn from that lesson too and install Wordreference, which contains an unparalleled breadth of dictionary translations.

The advantage of the printed dictionaries, now transferred digitally, is the vetted, sometimes peer-reviewed, nature of their content. The heavyweights in that arena are Collins and Oxford. Both are authorities in the English language and both contain extensive, high-quality articles. Depending on your source (excellent article here:, the breadth of the Collins database is unrivaled, whereas Oxford's is considered "authoritative." Neither are free, though Oxford's is cheaper ($24.99 vs. $29.99 USA). Both are excellent. Honorable mention goes to Ultralingua.

    • Advantages:
      • Free!
      • Unbeaten breadth of topics
    • Disadvantages:
      • Not available offline
      • Required internet connection slows lookup
    Ascendo Spanish / English Dictionary :
    • Advantages:
      • 665,746 entries and 263,000 translations
      • like Ultralingua, typing your word simultaneously searches Spanish and English
    • Disadvantages:
      • Not free like WordReference
    UltraLingua is another option:
    • Advantages:
      • 75,000 entries and 290,000 translations
      • an auto-complete feature, which Ultra advertises as "search-as-you-go," which allows you to partially spell the word, then select from a list of results, saving you typing
    • Disadvantages:
      • Appears to be an abridged version of Collins. Why not spend $5 more for the unabridged version?
      • Wikipedia offers a good analysis of UltraLingua in general though is not specific to Spanish ( Wikipedia cites a study in Texas which faults the software for inconsistency and relative lack of regional dialects
    The Oxford Spanish English Dictionary (OSD)
    • Advantages:
      • 75,000 entries and 290,000 translations
      • fast auto-complete feature
      • many articles (entries) are very high quality, especially popular ones like querer and ser. Oxford's content is outstanding here.
    • Disadvantages:
      • compared to Collins, certain words are missing, albeit unusual words
    The Collins Spanish English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged
    • Advantages:
      • It claims to contain 315,000 words and references
      • Search feature allows phrase-level searching, not simply word-level searching
      • It seems to actually contain more words than the Oxford Spanish Dictionary (OSD). For example, empicotar,empedernir (yes, these are unusual words, but OSD doesn't have them)
    • Disadvantages:
      • It's pricetag of $29.99 (USA 5-10-2011) makes it a more expensive option than most (e.g. $24.99 for OSD)


Which versions of the Collins and Oxford apps are you referring to? What I'm finding is that Collins 1.4.3 claims "Over 55,000 entries with 100,000 translations...." and Oxford 2.0.3 claims "Over 300,000 words and phrases and over 480,000 translations...." By that comparison, Oxford would seem the better app, even if it is $5 more.

By colibri (not verified)

Sorry for the delay in responding. I meant Oxford Iphone 4 App 2.0.3. I haven't purchased the Collins dictionary, but the Oxford tends to have 95% of the words I use as a Spanish Meetup (in Portland) organizer, though its interface is "clunky" because you need to tap 3 times to switch languages (and wait for the resulting navigation widgets to respond) as opposed to the Ultralingua engine whose switching is immediate and happens in only 1 tap. For most other lookups, and especially are excellent.

By Sean Wingert

Hi Sean,

Thanks for reviewing our Spanish English Dictionary + for iPhone and for the great work you are doing promoting language learning.

You mentioned that you found it counter-intuitive to "first click verb tables before searching for your word". However, you can look up the word first in the dictionary, then tap on the Conjugate button to the right of the navigation bar.

If your members have questions they can email us at:
info AT ascendo-inc DOT com

iTunes link to app:

Marc Bolh
CEO Ascendo

By Marc Bolh (not verified)


Indeed. I missed that option, so I've removed that disadvantage from the list.


By Sean Wingert

Hi Sean

Thank you for reviewing our Collins Spanish English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged, I think you forgot putting the link of the product. Here is the link.

Our dictionary has a few features worth mention:

1) It has human recorded audio for every single English/Spanish word
2) Without Internet access, you can look up any translation imaginable, any conjugation you want, and real examples of usage (including colloquialisms).
3) Dynamically search for a given conjugation and tense of a verb back to its infinitive form

Please feel free to contact me if you need a promotion code to try the app on your phone

Xinquan Zhu

By xinquan (not verified)