Free Legal Dictionaries Help with Meaning

It has never been easier to find out the meaning of a word from the legal lexicon.  NOLO Press is teaming up with the Legal Information Institute to supplement LII’s Wex online dictionary with their Plain English Legal Dictionary.  When you look up a word on Wex, you will find both the community definition and the definition from NOLO’s dictionary.

Irwin Law, a Canadian legal publisher, has also provided free access to a Canadian online legal dictionary.  Like Wex, it is being built out with community assistance.  Many of the dictionary terms are pulled from Irwin’s publications, though, so you can see the source – and buy it! – as you look at the terms.

An alternative Canadian dictionary is that put out by Lloyd Duhaime, who has authored all of the definitions himself.  This dictionary has “look ahead” search, so you can type in the first few letters to the term you are seeking and it will start to suggest matches and related terms.  These definitions can be extensive, with numerous supporting references and case citations.

All of these resources are helpful for anyone researching common law legal terms.  Some courts will help with country-specific glossaries (e.g., Scotland (PDF), United Kingdom), which can be particularly helpful if you’re dealing with a jurisdiction that is still heavily reliant on Latin.  Dictionary’s like Irwin Law’s COLD can help you when you’re trying to figure out what a factum is (brief) if you’re working with procedural rules with unfamiliar terms.

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