I just installed Ubuntu a couple days ago. As I was browsing through Ubuntu's files I found an interesting document containing seemingly all the words in the English dictionary. I know I did not put the file there so I know that it is part of the operating system, but I'm not sure why it would need a random list.

The file is /usr/share/dict/words

  • 3
    That would be the English dictionary for spell checking. – psusi Jan 28 '15 at 3:43

A chain of whys:

$ dpkg -S /usr/share/dict/words  
diversion by dictionaries-common from: /usr/share/dict/words
diversion by dictionaries-common to: /usr/share/dict/words.pre-dictionaries-common
wamerican, dictionaries-common: /usr/share/dict/words
$ aptitude why dictionaries-common
i   hunspell-en-us Depends dictionaries-common (>= 0.10)
$ aptitude why hunspell-en-us     
i   libenchant1c2a Depends  aspell-en | myspell-dictionary | aspell-dictionary | ispell-dictionary | hunspell-dictionary
i   hunspell-en-us Provides hunspell-dictionary                                                                         
$ aptitude why libenchant1c2a
i   libwebkitgtk-3.0-0 Depends libenchant1c2a (>= 1.6.0)
$ aptitude why libwebkitgtk-3.0-0
i   unity-control-center Depends libwebkitgtk-3.0-0 (>= 1.3.10)

Of course, this doesn't really answer why it needs this list of words. Just that a chain of dependencies caused it to be there. The other chain of whys might be a better answer, but:

$ aptitude why wamerican
i   cracklib-runtime Recommends wamerican | wordlist
$ aptitude why cracklib-runtime
i   libcrack2 Recommends cracklib-runtime
$ aptitude why libcrack2         
i   libpwquality1 Depends libcrack2 (>= 2.8.12)
$ aptitude why libpwquality1
i   unity-control-center Depends libpwquality1 (>= 1.1.0)

More plausible: the list of words is used to mark passwords present in a common dictionary as poor quality.

  • More plausible it's a dict for spell checking & for some commands like 'look'. The default list is medium size (90k+ words), other lists are available up to the 'insane' list (650k+ words – doug Nov 3 '16 at 22:28
  • @doug I just submitted an answer to that effect. I will add your info, thanks! – wjandrea Nov 3 '16 at 22:55
  • @doug that's why I feel password strength checking is more plausible - after all, how big can even 650k word-files be, and if you're really in for spell-checking, why not include larger lists? OTOH, if you just want common words... – muru Nov 3 '16 at 23:37
  • I guess one way to 'sorta' check is to misspell a word that's not in the installed list(s) & see if it comes up in the various spellcheckers (- by 650k mean # of words so that's a bit more than 1/2 of available english ones based on some estimates of 1,025,109, though most dictionaries have less than 650,000 – doug Nov 4 '16 at 1:45
  • Taking a quick look it seems gedit & firefox don't use that file(s), so maybe you're to something. ( – doug Nov 4 '16 at 1:56

From Wikipedia:

words is a standard file on all Unix and Unix-like operating systems, and is simply a newline-delimited list of dictionary words. It is used, for instance, by spell-checking programs.

The words file is usually stored in /usr/share/dict/words or /usr/dict/words.

On Debian and Ubuntu, the words file is provided by the wordlist package, or its provider packages wbritish, wamerican, etc.

From @doug's comment (link is mine):

The default list is medium size (90k+ words), other lists are available up to the 'insane' list (650k+ words)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.