Users of Microsoft Word, rejoice! There now exists a solution to the long-standing problem of spellchecking Ancient Greek text in Microsoft Word! Behold, the program Titivillus!

Titivillus is a program drawing on the work of a few different scholars. It adds Latin and Ancient Greek spellchecking support to Word. As they describe it:

Titivillus adds spellchecking for Latin and Ancient Greek to Microsoft Word on Microsoft Windows. Once it is installed, you can spellcheck Latin and Ancient Greek just as you spellcheck any modern language. Titivillus not only flags possible mistakes, but also gives you suggestions for possible corrections and allows you to add entries to a personal dictionary. Titivillus is free of charge.

In other words, it works just like a spell checker you use for any other language.

What it is and how it works: a basic description

Simply put, it replaces isiZulu with the dictionary and spellchecking rules for Ancient Greek. Word already has “Greek” as a language, but that is Modern Greek, so if you populated “Greek” with spell-checking rules for Ancient Greek it would be rather useless for spellchecking Modern Greek. Apparently Zulu is a low demand language in the Ancient Greek academic world. If you happen to use Zulu, than this spellchecking solution is not for you. Sorry. Replacing a language in Word’s database of languages allows Titivillus to do things like check spelling as you type, change words in its dictionary, and other normal functions we expect from a spell-checker.

Titivillus is a spell-checker, which means there are certain limitations. Based on the way Word handles things, spellchecking and grammar checking are different systems. Spellchecking examines words by comparing a word to a built-in dictionary. Spellcheck does not consider context. This means the spellchecker will not flag something like ἀπό τοῦ θεοῦ, since the acute accent on ἀπό is a correct form in Greek. Thus, the variations in accents caused by clitic forms and the variation between the accute and grave is outside the scope of this program. Those rules are all context sensitive.

Reasons to celebrate Titivillus

First, it works in Word. Word is the most used word processing software on the planet, so the many of us who use it can take advantage of this program (sorry to Mac users, this will not work for you nor are there any plans to change that; one of the drawbacks of Apple’s closed system approach to things).

Second, it is more responsive than the Ancient Greek spell-checking available in LibreOffice. I like LibreOffice and if Microsoft continues down the path they are going someday in the not too distant future I will become a primary LibreOffice user, as opposed to a dabbler in it. More to the point, the spell-checker in LibreOffice does not seem to check spelling in real time (if it does, I have never figured out how to make that work). Titivillus checks spelling on the fly, changing between languages and spellchecking rules as you do. It gives recommendations about appropriate spelling, which are pretty good, but not perfect. I tried ἀρχῃ and received a variety of suggestions, but notably absent was the form ἀρχῇ that I wanted. Nothing is perfect. Titivillus is a huge step in the right direction, though.

Third, it accepts either iota subscript or adscript spellings. This is an improvement against the LibreOffice spell-checker, which considers iota adscript spellings correct. Lots of “add this form to dictionary” is required if you want to use iota subscript.

Fourth, it *can* spell-check Greek text pasted into Word. I have tried this a variety of times and the results have been mixed. When it does work, it is brilliant, but sometimes you have to paste the same text multiple times. It will always work if you manually select the text and change the language to isiZulu, which is now Ancient Greek. Sometimes it does the spellchecking as you paste the text in. To spellcheck copied text automatically, first make sure you have switched to the Zulu/Ancient Greek keyboard. Then, use the ctrl + alt + V method and paste the text as Unicode (the important point is to get rid of the source formatting). Once you have pasted the text into the document this way, Titivillus automatically spell checks it. Of course, if that doesn’t work, you can always select the text and change its language to isiZulu and then it will be spellchecked appropriately. I have had much better results pasting text between word processors rather than directly from the internet.

Last, Titivillus works with the native Ancient Greek keyboard on Word, or with other means of Greek text entry. Follow the installation instructions provided (pay special attention to Step 5) and when Word thinks you are typing in Zulu, your Greek spell-checker will be humming away merrily. Just like Microsoft’s Ancient Greek keyboard, you can type in Greek anywhere, in any program when the keyboard is activated. The spell checking is only for Word, though.


If you use Word and you have an interest in Ancient Greek, go out and get Titivillus. As an added bonus, it is free!