The Nôm Lookup Tool Story


In the beginning, there was the “syllable”. The sound of each Vietnamese syllable can be written two ways: in quốc ngữ, “tiếng”, and in chữ Nôm, 㗂.
They both sound the same and mean the same.

It is the monumental hidden treasure of the Vietnamese heritage in chữ Nôm that feeds our dreams. We dream of using chữ quốc ngữ to see how its chữ Nôm looks and to tell how a chữ Nôm sounds like in quốc ngữ. May be it’s not the dream for all, but it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s all about “doing something to help promote and re-discover our Nôm heritage”.

Some of us didn’t know a thing about Nôm. Some have never met. Yet we became friends, thanks to chữ Nôm, and... thanks to e-mail.

That “something to help promote and re-discover our nôm heritage” gives birth to the Nôm Lookup Tool, an application intended to be a retrieval-system as well as a learning-tool.

Well, it’s not a real project because we don’t have a formal organization for our group. Sometimes, things may seem to be done chaotically, but at the end our collaboration always works like a charm!

And the dream still goes on…

The Data Sources

  • Bảng Tra Chữ Nôm ed. by Hồ Lê, a publication of Viện Ngôn Ngữ Học, Hà Nội, 1976
  • Đại tự điển chữ Nôm by Vũ Văn Kính, Sàigòn, 1971
  • Giúp đọc Nôm và Hán Việt by Father Anthony Trần Văn Kiệm, Đà Nẵng, 2004
  • Góp phần nghiên cứu văn hoá Việt Nam by Nguyễn Văn Huyên, Hà Nội, 1995
  • Tự điển chữ Nôm by Vũ Văn Kính and Nguyễn Quang Xỷ, Trung tâm Học liệu, Sàigòn, 1971
  • Tự điển chữ Nôm by Takeuchi Yonosuke, Tokyo, 1988
  • Tự điển chữ Nôm Dẫn Giải by Nguyễn Quang Hồng, Hà Nội, 2014 (rev. 2021)
  • Từ điển chữ Nôm Tày by Hoàng Triều Ân et al., Hà Nội, 2003
  • Tự điển Hán Việt by Thiều Chửu, Hà Nội, 1942
  • The UniHan Database: The Unicode Consortium’s database containing properties of all encoded CJKV Unified Ideographs.
  • Various electronic data provided by Ngô Thanh Nhàn, Đỗ Bá Phước, and Ngô Trung Việt.

The Team

  • User Wishlist: Ngô Thanh Nhàn (USA) and Ngô Trung Việt (Vietnam)
  • Data Input: Lê Mai Phương (Belgium), Ngô Trung Việt (Vietnam), Tô Trọng Đức (Vietnam)
  • Design: Lê-Phạm Ngưng Hương (Switzerland)
  • Implementation: Đỗ Bá Phước (USA) and Lê-Phạm Ngưng Hương (Switzerland), Tô Trọng Đức (Vietnam), Lee Collins (USA)
  • Packaging and distribution: Hồ Văn Tiến (Switzerland)

The Development Tools

  • MySql: an open source DBMS
  • PHP: an open source Web-scripting language



  1. DFSongLight: of Dynalab, including the 9299 Nôm Ideographs
  2. Arial Unicode MS: of Microsoft, including a subset of the CJKV Unified Ideographs.
Currently, Nom Na Tong Regular, 4.8: of VNPF Nôm Na Office, including glyphs for over 26,000 Hán-Nôm characters.