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Glossary Mining - Part 4: Making It Legal

By Lee Wright,
American Translators Association,
Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.

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See also:
Glossary Mining - Part 1
Glossary Mining - Down Tunnel No. 2
Glossary Mining - Part 3: Digging for Buried Treasure

Glossary Mining - Part 4: Making It Legal
Glossary Mining - Part 5: Getting Down to Business
Glossary Mining - Part 6: Science from A to Z
Glossary Mining - Part 7: Brush Up Your English

The first three installments in this series have emphasized Web sites of a technical nature, with an occasional oddity thrown in for good measure. This time the focus is entirely on Web sites for legal terminology and related resources. Although my own languages are Spanish and English, I have also found a number of Web sites for French, German and Portuguese. However, I’ll start with a survey of monolingual English sites.

English Resources

In this first category undoubtedly the best all-around resource for legal terminology can be found at This the ’Lectric Law Library site and has excellent definitions. The Law.Com dictionary ( provides both short and long definitions for most terms. The third runner-up is, which also contains very good definitions. Other good sites for legal terms are,, and This last one provides very detailed definitions of most terms. Not limited to legal terminology is the site at In addition, be sure to check out Wikipedia for access to a wide range of English legal terminology and other resources. The URL for this site can be found at

If you want an even bigger on-line reference, check out This is the Web site for the PDF version of the complete unabridged edition of the Ballantine’s Legal Dictionary and Thesaurus. The aforementioned URL takes you to the entries for the first letter of the alphabet, so if you want to see entries for other letters, just change the "a" in the URL to that particular letter. However, unless you have a lot of time and paper to spare, don’t plan on printing a copy because the entire PDF version occupies nearly 2800 pages.

Even some law firms have produced their own glossaries. Here are just two of them: is the glossary of a California law firm, and was created by a now-defunct firm.

Court Terms

In a narrower subject area, for a good reference on federal court terminology see and Also in this category is, where you can find codes, statutes, court opinions, etc. If you need to consult court decisions, these can be found at And the Cornell University Law School’s site contains a nice collection of U.S. Codes at

A somewhat surprisingly good resource with excellent English definitions is the glossary of the Court TV program: The Web site of the National Association for Court Management likewise offers a good glossary of court-related terms at And even more general court terminology can be found at

A sizeable number of sites have also been created by state courts and even large county court systems. Here’s a small sampling of what’s out there in no particular order of usefulness:

Virginia State Court:

Tennessee State Court:

Iowa State Judicial Branch:

Michigan State Court:

Pennsylvania State Court:

Montgomery County, Maryland, Circuit Court:

Shelby County Court:

New York State Court System:

(Spanish version of the preceding item)

Specialty Sites

In the catch-all category provides access to a variety of different legal sites. is the Web site of WAGE (Women Are Getting Even), which contains terminology related to employment of women, e.g., sex discrimination, etc. This next one is from a Canadian publication specializing in legal and other concerns of senior citizens: If you’re looking for a glossary specializing in employment law issues, check out this one:

Here’s a very unique and interesting concept in glossaries. This next site allows you to display terms in a specified subject area, such as torts, criminal law, constitutional law, etc. In addition to complete terms, provides a separate glossary of legal abbreviations. But the most unusual one of all is, which is called an Instant Text Glossary. It provides shorthand ways of reproducing over 1000 standard legal phrases, e.g., iiamor = it is a matter of record.

For a multilingual site (Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish), the Europa Glossary at offers a wide range of terminology that includes the legal field.

The Navigador Jurídico Internacional site provides access to legal materials from all over the globe. It’s especially good for foreign legislative texts:

As long as we’re on the subject of international resources, here are two from across the pond: (Ireland); (UK). North of the border is also represented by, which is the Duhaime’s Canadian Legal Dictionary.

You can also find a list of legal Web sites at and

Documents, Forms and Periodicals

An assortment of downloadable sample legal documents and forms can be found at If you need access to Vital Records from all of the U.S. states, here’s the site to consult: The University of California/Berkeley School of Law’s index to foreign legal periodicals is an excellent source of legal texts: The World Law Guide site provides links to legislative and other legal documents from all over the world. And if you specifically want similar items for Latin American legislative documents (laws, decrees, codes, etc.), here are two excellent sites: and

Criminal and Civil Law

Quite a few sites deal with criminal and civil law. Here are just some of them, starting with two good English-language glossaries of criminal law terms: and More information about criminal law but not a glossary per se can be found at In addition to criminal law, also provides access to glossaries in 15 other legal fields. And offers more criminal law terminology. If criminal investigation happens to be an area of interest, check out this site:

In the civil law category the two major English-language resources are a 17-chapter treatise on the subject written by S.P. Scott in 1932 but nonetheless mostly valid today:, and the 67-page Primer on the Civil Law System, published by the Federal Judicial Center and available in PDF format at (yes, this is the actual URL!!): International civil procedure is covered at yet another site:

Patent Law

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site,, provides lots of information about patents, and the USPTO’s glossary of patent terminology can be found at another site: A good discussion of U.S. patent law is accessible at And offers an excellent patent search site.

Spanish Resources

The California court system glossary offers simple but accurate Spanish terms and definitions at, and the Southern District Court of New York has a Web site containing a bilingual Spanish<>English glossary of for court interpreters:

Moving south of the border, for Mexican legal terminology there are several different sites. Here are four good ones: is Mexico’s official Web site for Federal legislative documents. contains a glossary prepared by the Law School of the Tecnológico de Monterrey. It cites the sources of definitions. contains an excellent article on the Mexican Civil Code by Prof. Jorge Vargas.

Other sites from Latin American countries include the following: is the Guatemalan Ministry of Labor’s site. The Peruvian official government site is Argentine law terminology can be found at A nice English-Spanish glossary of primarily legal terms from Chile is available at And a good Colombian Spanish legal site is

In the "generic" Spanish category there are numerous sites for legal terminology, including the next ones: (Spanish legislative terminology)

Good Spanish definitions can be found at,, and

This last one also provides a link to the English glossary of legal terms previously cited.

If you’re looking for peninsular Spanish terminology, a glossary containing very detailed definitions can be found at Access to the Boletín Oficial del Estado (España) and the BOE of the various Spanish provinces is available at And if you need a Spanish-language guide to patent law, check out

Primarily European in its orientation are the various Spanish-language resources available from Wikipedia, which of course also have their English-language parallels. These include the following: (general legal) (civil law) (trial procedures)

If you need access to the Civil Codes of the Spanish-speaking countries, this Wikipedia site is your best bet: A good source of Spanish information on civil law is Finally, a site specializing in Spanish contract law, but which also covers other fields, is available at

Other Languages


There are significantly more French legal resources than any other language. Most of them, however, are monolingual. These include the following: (a commercial Web site’s glossary)

(Dictionnaire juridique et contractuel des Affaires et Projets)

The official French government site is, and its Canadian counterpart can be found at

Family law (specifically divorce) is covered by this site:

Real estate law terminology can be found at two sites: and For French insurance law, you can consult And is the glossary of a French law firm.

Of a more specialized nature, the dictionary of droit privé français terminology cites titles of texts where a term is found and includes a bibliography of references. Many definitions are very detailed. The dictionary also contains a list of abbreviations used in legal documents. This Web site’s URL is

Not a dictionary/glossary per se but a Web site that provides access to French legal documents of all kinds is accessible at is also not really a glossary but rather provides access to French legal resources, organized by subject area (e.g., civil/tax/criminal/etc.).

Belgian French is also represented by


As far as I have been able to ascertain, German-language resources are rather sparse. Here is what I have found so far, but there might be others lurking out there. (advertising/PR legal terms)


Brazilian Portuguese brings up the rear of the pack with just two on-line references: is a commercial law glossary in Word format and not 100% accurate. It appears to have been a student project. And another legal glossary is accessible at

Just for Laughs

Lawyers and the law are often the target of humor. For a good chuckle, check out, which provides a great collection of dumb laws from all of the U.S. states and a couple dozen foreign countries. A totally non-serious glossary of legal terms can be found at Here are just a couple of the lawyer jokes contained in this funny site:

A defendant was asked if he wanted a bench trial or a jury trial. "Jury trial," the defendant replied. "Do you understand the difference?" asked the judge. "Sure," replied the defendant, "That’s where twelve ignorant people decide my fate instead of one."

Your attorney and your mother-in-law are trapped in a burning building. You only have time to save one of them. Do you: (1) have lunch? or (2) go to a movie?


This article was originally published in The ATA Chronicle.

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