Fix Mac Dictionary App, Can’t Modify Preferences on Dictionary Catalina

After the Catalina update, there are many users who can’t modify, check or select the preferences in the dictionary App on macOS Catalina. Are you also facing multiple issues with the Dictionary app on macOS Catalina? If yes then you are in the right place. Steps provided in this article will help you to fix almost all issues related to the Dictionary app on your Mac. It will help you to fix several errors for failed downloads of different dictionaries. It will also help you fix word search issues in the dictionary app on your Mac. Let’s start with a few practical scenarios.

Scenario 1: The macOS dictionary app cannot add the new build in dictionaries

I just got my 16-inch MacBook Pro with macOS 10.15.1, I was trying to add a new build in dictionaries on the dictionary app in the macOS, but once I checked the corresponding box on the preferences of the app, it cannot be checked. the box will automatically uncheck. Such as the dictionary “The Standard Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese”, I cannot check that corresponding box on the preferences. But my 15-inch MacBook can check that box. Does anyone know any solutions? Thanks

Can't Modify, Check or Select Preferences on Dictionary App Mac Catalina

Source: Apple Community

Scenario 2: Unable to add the Oxford Portuguese-English dictionary on Mac

I also ran into this issue with the new 16in MBP (10.15.1) and the Dictionary app when trying to add the Oxford Portuguese-English dictionary (2015, 2019). As others have described, the checkmark flashes on, then off and the dictionary appears to be added to the Navbar, but once you close the Preferences window, it disappears.

Source: Apple Community

Like the above two users, if you are also facing issue with the dictionary app on your macOS then please perform the steps provided below:

Fix Mac Dictionary App Issue, Can’t Modify Preferences on Dictionary Catalina

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Restart your Mac

For many users, a simple restart fixed the dictionary issue on Mac. To restart your Mac, go to the Apple menu > and click on Restart. After the restart, try using the dictionary again.

Apple menu restart

Update Your Mac

Updating macOS Catalina to version 10.15.3 resolved the dictionary issue for many users.

To check the latest update and install it on your Mac, perform the steps provided below:

  • To install the latest macOS software updates, go to the Apple menu > select System Preferences and then click on Software Update.

Update your Mac from system preferences

You can also go to the Apple menu > select About This Mac and then click on Software Update.

Delete Files From Dictionary Folder

Close your dictionary app.

Go to the location /Users/<user>/Library/Dictionaries. You can find the dictionary files in ~/Library/Dictionaries which can be accessed using Finder or simply by selecting File > Open Dictionaries Folder in your Dictionary app.

Open dictionary folder mac

Now delete everything in the Dictionaries folder and then relaunch the dictionary app. All the files will redownload and the issue should be resolved.

If the issue still persists then navigate to the path provided below:


  • Here you will see the list of all the preinstalled dictionaries, find the dictionary which you need and delete the corresponding folder.
  • Now open the dictionary app and select the language.
  • The Dictionary app will automatically re-download all the required files.

Create a New Admin Account

Sometimes due to corrupt user profile, you may face an issue with the Dictionary app so creating a new admin account may help you to fix the issue.

To create a new admin account:

Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences.

System preference mac

Click on User & Groups.

System preference mac

Now select the lock icon, enter the user name and password of an existing admin account and open preference panel.

Lock icon mac

Click on the + plus icon to create a new account.

Plus icon mac

Use the drop-down menu next to New Account and select Administrator.

Admin mac

Fill in all the required details and click on Create User to create a new Admin account.

Create new admin mac

Once a new admin account is created, restart your Mac. Log in to the new administrator account and check the Dictionary App.

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I hope one of the steps provided in this post helped you to fix different issues with the Dictionary app on macOS Catalina. In case none of the steps helped you to fix the Dictionary issue then please contact Apple Support for further assistance.

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