Finding Legal Dictionaries


Legal dictionaries can be especially useful when conducting legal research. Jenkins has a number of legal dictionaries available in the library for visitor use.

Black's Law Dictionary is probably the most recognizable legal dictionary. Currently in its 11th edition (2019), this dictionary was first published in 1891 by Henry Campbell Black, a legal author and editor. In the Preface to the first edition, Black writes, "The dictionary now offered to the profession is the result of the author's endeavor to prepare a concise and yet comprehensive book of definitions of the terms, phrases, and maxims used in American and English law and necessary to be understood by the working lawyer and judge, as well as those important to the student of legal history or comparative jurisprudence."

The 11th edition of Black's Law Dictionary is available on the library's Westlaw computers as well as in print. For those doing historical research, Jenkins has prior editions of Black's beginning with the 1st edition from 1891. The member database HeinOnline (available to most Jenkins members) also has the 1st (1891) and second (1910) editions.

Another legal dictionary, Bouvier Law Dictionary, is thought to be the first legal dictionary based on American law and was originally compiled by Philadelphia attorney John Bouvier. First published in 1839, this dictionary is now put out by the legal publisher Wolters Kluwer. The 2012 edition is available in print in the library. Jenkins has select prior editions, including the 1st edition from 1839, in our Rare Book Room. Historic editions are also available in HeinOnline in Spinelli's Law Library Reference Shelf .

For those looking for more "simplified" legal dictionaries, take a look at Findlaw Legal Dictionary from Thomson Reuters, Legal Terms and Definitions, and Nolo's Free Dictionary of Law Terms and Legal Definitions.

Looking for more legal dictionaries? Check out our Legal Dictionaries research guide for a full list of legal dictionaries available at Jenkins.

More from the blog

The 11th edition of Black's Law Dictionary (2019) is now available at Jenkins. The 11th edition provides definitions for over 55,000 legal words and phrases. Library users can find the dictionary in print or from any of our four Westlaw computers. To access the dictionary on Westlaw, search Black's...
This is no April Fool's joke! The Oxford English Dictionary is now available to all Jenkins' members. Find the meaning and history of phrases like, " April fool " which originated in the 17th century, or a modern phrase such as " cloud computing ."
Find John Bouvier's portrait and dictionaries at Jenkins.