Oxford English Dictionary 4.0 in modern macOS versions


The method described on this page requires an existing copy of the OED 4.0 software for either Windows or the Mac, and cannot be used without an existing copy of the software.

Current versions of macOS cannot run 32-bit applications. The Macintosh version of the OED 4.0 software (relased 2009) was a 32-bit application and will not run under macOS 10.15 Catalina, macOS 11 Big Sur, macOS 12 Monterey, or future versions. However, the Windows version of the software can run in recent macOS versions under the Wine emulation software. This page provides a “Wineskin wrapper” that runs the Windows OED software, but you will need to supply the data files that contain the dictionary itself.

Credit where credit is due: This method uses the freely-available launcher program, shwx.exe. Robert Holmgren explained on this page how to use that file instead of the program supplied by Oxford.

If you have the Mac version of the OED software, start by right-clicking on the application; choose Show Package Contents; navigate to the Resources folder, and copy all the files with a “.t” extension to a convenient folder. If you have the Windows version, find its folder on your Windows system and copy all the files with a “.t” extension to a USB drive or other storage medium from which you can copy the files to your Mac system.

Next, download this OED-4.0-Add-Data.zip archive and extract the “OED 4.0 Add Data” application contained inside. Rename it OED 4.0 or anything else you want. Right-click on the application; choose Show Package Contents; navigate to the “drive_c” folder, then the “Program Files (x86)” folder, then the “OED 4.0” folder. Now go back and find the folder that contains the files with a “.t” extension that you copied earlier, and move or copy them into the “OED 4.0” folder. Close the Finder window.

Right-click the OED 4.0 application and choose Open. You will probably see an error message. Click OK; then right-click the application again and again choose Open. If the application opens, then all is well. If it does not, then open a terminal and type in this command:

xattr -rc

followed by a space (don’t forget the space). Then drag the application into the terminal window and press Enter. The application should now run without difficulty.

I have included the application a launcher program named OEDRunner.exe. Expert users may use the Wineskin application included in the OED 4.0 application to change the Wineskin command line to use OEDRunner.exe instead of the default setting. The command line requires four parameters: the x- and y-positions of the upper-left corner of the window in pixels, and the width and height of the window in pixels I use the numbers 40 70 800 800 (but you may want to experiment). The procedure for making this is change is left as a problem for the reader.

OED 1.0: Yes, I have tried to run version 1.x of the OED software for Windows under a similar Wine-based system, without success. If you figure out how to do it, please let me know. However, I have created an emulated System 7.6.1 application system that runs the old OED v.1.0d for Macintosh. Feel free to get in touch if this is of interest.


Edward Mendelson (em thirty-six [at] columbia [dot] edu, but with two initials and two numerals before the [at] sign, not spelled out as shown here).