The legal profession is intricately woven with the power of words, making dictionaries an indispensable tool for lawyers and judges. Throughout history, dictionaries have played a vital role in helping legal professionals navigate the complexities of language, particularly when faced with challenging and obscure terms. From John Rastell’s sixteenth-century work, “Termes de la Ley,” to Bryan A. Garner’s recent edition of “Black’s Law Dictionary,” these linguistic resources have aided in the understanding and interpretation of legal terminology.

Law students, in particular, find dictionaries to be invaluable companions as they embark on the daunting task of learning a new professional language rooted in Latin and French. Whether in print or online, general or law-specific, dictionaries provide essential support in grasping the intricacies of legal jargon.

In legal briefs, oral arguments, and opinions, lawyers and judges frequently cite dictionaries to unravel the meaning of words found in constitutions, cases, statutes, and regulations. Both modern and historical dictionaries are referenced, as the evolution of definitions over time provides valuable insights into the original intent of certain terms. However, it is worth noting that the selection of dictionaries can be subjective, with legal professionals sometimes choosing those that align with their preferred interpretation.

This collection offers a glimpse into the dictionaries that have shaped legal education and practice over the past 500 years. Explore the resources that have been consulted by law students, lawyers, and judges, and cited by courts as they strive to unravel the intricacies of the law through the power of words.