Five Best Free Legal Dictionaries

There is no reason to buy a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary before your first day of law school when there are plenty of comprehensive, free glossaries on the web. Below is a short list of some of the best free online dictionaries.

1. Google – Yet again, Google ranks as the most useful free resource. To automatically search the dictionary directories, enter the tag “definition: [word]” (e.g., “definition: gag order”). This resource also allows the user to listen to the word, which could be useful for certain latin terminology. Also provides links to various other references.

Gag order: Noun: A judge’s order that a case may not be discussed in public.

2.  FindLaw Dictionary – Owned by West, this free dictionary provides simple definitions and limited examples for a wide-array of legal terms. The dictionary is difficult to locate from FindLaw’s main site, so use the provided link above. Designed for legal professionals and law students.

Gag Order: an order barring public disclosure or discussion (as by the involved parties or the press) of information relating to a case.

3. Law.com Dictionary – More extensive than FindLaw’s dictionary with the added ability to search through definitions for specific words or phrases. Albeit the site is targeted at non-lawyers, the definitions are must more robust than those on FindLaw and include useful examples and explanations.

Gag Order: n. a judge’s order prohibiting the attorneys and the parties to a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking to the media or the public about the case. The supposed intent is to prevent prejudice due to pre-trial publicity which would influence potential jurors. A gag order has the secondary purpose of preventing the lawyers from trying the case in the press and on television, and thus creating a public mood (which could get ugly) in favor of one party or the other. Based on the “freedom of the press” provision of the First Amendment, the court cannot constitutionally restrict the media from printing or broadcasting information about the case, so the only way is to put a gag on the participants under the court’s control. In Canada, however, the media can be restricted, as in a famous case in which American newspapers were smuggled across the border to report on a particularly lurid sex-murder case in which a second accused person was yet to be tried. A gag order can also be made by an executive agency such as when President George Bush issued a gag order which forbade federally funded health clinics from giving out information about abortions, a gag order which President Bill Clinton rescinded on his first day in office, January 22, 1993.

4. Wex Legal Dictionary – This is a free, “community-built” legal dictionary and encyclopedia hosted by Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. This site pulls definitions from various other dictionaries, including Nolo’s Plain English Law Dictionary, another free, browsable dictionary. One of the benefits of this resource is that the site also provides search results to documents containing that particular search term.

Gag Order: A judge’s order prohibiting the attorneys and parties in a pending lawsuit or criminal prosecution from talking about the case to the media or the public.

5. The Free Dictionary – Sourcing words and definitions from West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, Edition 2, containing “more than 4,000 entries detailing terms, concepts, events, movements, cases, and individuals significant to United States law.” The dictionary also includes words and definitions from The People’s Law Dictionary and the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Definitions pages include definitions from multiple sources, usage sentences, and a thesaurus.

Gag Order: n. a court order restricting information or comment by the participants involved in a lawsuit; “imposing a gag order on members of the press violates the First Amendment.”

 

Runners-Up:

Legal Explanations – A surprisingly comprehensive directory of legal terms and plain-English definitions (over 2,500 legal definitions, to be specific). This dictionary is not searchable; browse words to locate definitions.

The Law Dictionary – Very select words/ definitions from Black’s Law Dictionary. Provides a word of the day and a variety of obscure legal terms. Primary a marketing site.

Duhaime’s Legal Dictionary – Provides a browsable glossary of legal terms and plain-English definitions.


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