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International Ispell

International Ispell is an interactive spell-checking program for Unix which supports a large number of European languages. An emacs interface is available as well as the standard command-line mode. The latest version of ispell is available for download as a gzipped tar file. You can also use your favorite search engine to look for mirrors nearer to you; search for "ispell-3.4.06".

If your browser supports forms, you can use one to submit a bug report for ispell. You can also send mail to or, for emacs-related problems, to

Index to this Web Page

What Is Ispell and Why Do I Want It?

Ispell is a fast screen-oriented spelling checker that shows you your errors in the context of the original file, and suggests possible corrections when it can figure them out. Compared to UNIX spell, it is faster and much easier to use. Ispell can also handle languages other than English.

Where Is the Documentation?

Complete documentation for ispell, including documentation of the affix-file format, comes with the distribution kit in Unix manual-page format. If you have ispell installed on your machine, you should be able to type "man ispell" to view it. For convenience and browsing, the primary manual page for ispell is also available online.

What's New in This Version?

After a long hiatus, Ispell 3.4 primarily offers bug fixes, increased portability, and improved English dictionaries.

What's the Difference Between Ispell and Aspell?

Aspell is a spelling checker written by Kevin Atkinson. Its primary advantage is that it is better at making suggestions when a word is seriously misspelled. For example, when given "trubble", ispell will suggest only "rubble", where aspell suggests "trouble" (as its first choice" as well as "dribble", "rubble", and a lot of other words. Its disadvantage is that the approximate-matching algorithm is specific to English.

Where Can I Get Ispell?

The current version of ispell is 3.4.06.

Ispell comes with English dictionaries. For other languages, see the ispell dictionaries Web page.

Ispell also has an emacs interface, ispell.el, which is normally part of emacs installations. If it's not in your version of emacs, it can be gotten from Ken Stevens' ispell emacs interface home page or from the emacs download page.

Is There a Mouse/Menus Version of Ispell?

Yes. Kspell is a graphical interface to ispell. You can even write programmatic interfaces for your own proprietary formats.

Who Wrote Ispell?

Ispell is a very old program. The original was written in PDP-10 assembly in 1971, by R. E. Gorin. The C version was written by Pace Willisson of MIT. Walt Buehring of Texas Instruments added the emacs interface and posted it to the net. Geoff Kuenning added the international support and created the current release. Ken Stevens has maintained the Emacs interface (ispell.el) for many years. Many, many other people contributed to the current version; a partial list (with a much more detailed history) can be found in the file Contributors in the distribution.

Where Do I Send Bug Reports?

The preferred way to submit an ispell bug report is to use the Web bug report interface.

Bug reports can also be submitted via e-mail. Most e-mailed ispell bug reports, except bugs related to the emacs-lisp interface, should be sent to Bugs in the emacs interface (ispell.el) should be reported to If you're not sure which address to use, send your report to and I'll sort it out from there.

Bugs in add-on packages (found in the addons subdirectory) should not be sent to Instead, send reports to the developers of those packages (see the README file for the package you are using).

How Do I Reference Ispell in Scholarly Papers?

There is no published paper on ispell, so if you make use of ispell in a fashion that requires a reference (e.g., using the dictionary as a word list in a research project), you are limited to an Internet reference. The full proper title is printed by "ispell -v": "International Ispell Version x.y.z". Please include the full version number in your reference so that people can discover the exact variant that you used; sometimes it's important. If you're feeling really nice, you can also credit me, Geoff Kuenning, as the author. Usually, you should also include a link to this Web page ( so that readers of your paper can locate a copy of ispell if they wish.

Where Do I Get Dictionaries?

Ispell comes with American and British dictionaries. For other languages, visit the list of dictionaries. If you create a dictionary of your own and make it available for ftp, please send a notification to so that I can add your dictionary to the list.

What About Ispell for MS-DOS or Windows?

Although ispell is not officially supported on Microsoft platforms, it contains compilation options for that environment, kindly provided by Eli Zaretskii. See the file pc/README for details.

But What About My Macintosh?

Ispell works under Mac OS X (you need to have the developer tools installed). Make sure /usr/local/bin is in your PATH after you install ispell.

For a more MAC-like interface, check out Excalibur, which is a Mac-based spelling checker that knows LaTeX and can handle multiple languages.

Online Resources

There are many online resources for spell-checking; I'd appreciate good links.

This page is maintained by Geoff Kuenning.