Black's Law Dictionary

Black's Law is the most widely used law dictionary in the United States. It was founded by Henry Campbell Black (1860–1927). It is the reference of choice for terms in legal briefs and court opinions and has been cited as a secondary legal authority in many U.S. Supreme Court cases.[1]


The first edition was published in 1891, and the second edition in 1910.[2] The sixth and earlier editions of the book also provided case citations for the term cited, which some lawyers view as its most useful feature, providing a useful starting point with leading cases. The Internet made legal research easier than it ever had been, so many state- or circuit-specific case citations and outdated or overruled case citations were dropped from the seventh edition in 1999. The eighth edition introduced a unique system of perpetually updated case citations and cross-references to legal encyclopedias. The current edition is the eleventh, published in 2019.[3]

Because many legal terms are derived from a Latin root word, the Dictionary gives a pronunciation guide for such terms. In addition, the applicable entries provide pronunciation transcriptions pursuant to those found among North American practitioners of law or medicine.


An online version of the tenth edition can be accessed through the paid Westlaw legal information service.

The second edition of Black's Law Dictionary (1910) is now in the public domain and is available online for free (see External Links below). However, the general applicability of this online version is limited due to its age. It still applies for legal theory terms, and many basic legal terms with respect to their general meaning. However, references to case law will be obviously incomplete for modern purposes, and the use of legal language in court filings and in the courtroom has changed with changes in law and legal culture over time.[4] The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. has reprinted the first and second editions (ISBN 0-9630106-0-3 and ISBN 1-886363-10-2, respectively). Also, it is available as a Windows Phone application, and the tenth edition is available as an application for iOS devices.[5] [6]


  • Black's Law Dictionary 11th ed. (West Group, 2019), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 978-1-5392-2975-9
  • Black's Law Dictionary 10th ed. (West Group, 2014), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 978-0-314-61300-4
  • Black's Law Dictionary 9th ed. (West Group, 2009), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-19949-7
  • Black's Law Dictionary 8th ed. (West Group, 2004), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-15199-0
  • Black's Law Dictionary 7th ed. (West Group, 1999), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-22864-0
  • Black's Law Dictionary 6th ed. (West Publishing, 1990) ISBN 90-6544-631-1
  • Black's Law Dictionary 5th ed. (West Publishing, 1979) ISBN 0-8299-2041-2
  • Black's Law Dictionary Revised 4th ed. (St. Paul: West, 1968)
  • Black's Law Dictionary 4th ed. (St. Paul: West, 1951)
  • Black's Law Dictionary 3rd ed. (West Publishing Co., 1933) (the first edition after Henry C. Black's death)
  • Black's Law Dictionary 2nd ed. (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1910) ISBN 1-886363-10-2. Public domain (accessible for free through Google Books)
  • Black's Law Dictionary 1st ed. (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1891) ISBN 0-9630106-0-3

Pocket editions

  • Black's Law Dictionary 5th pocket ed. (West Group, 2016), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-84489-9
  • Black's Law Dictionary 4th pocket ed. (West Group, 2011), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-27544-4
  • Black's Law Dictionary 3rd pocket ed. (West Group, 2006), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-15862-6
  • Black's Law Dictionary 2nd pocket ed. (West Group, 2001), Bryan A. Garner, editor, ISBN 0-314-25791-8

Non-English editions

  • Blackův právnický slovník. Complete translation of 6th edition into Czech. Victoria Publishing, Prague, 1993. ISBN 80-85605-23-6.
  • Āqāʼī, Bahman. Farhang-i ḥuqūqī-i Bahman: Ingilīsī-Fārsī: bar asās-i Black's law dictionary (1999)[7] (Fārsī)
  • Muqtadirah-yi Qaumī Zabān. Qānūnī, Angrezī-Urdu lug̲h̲at: Blaiks lāʼ dikshanarī se māk̲h̲ūz (Based on Black's law dictionary) / nigrān, Fatiḥ Muḥammad Malik (2002)[8] ISBN 969-474-084-3. (Urdu)

See also


  1. Darrell Paterson v. Walgreen Co., 18-349 (Supreme Court of the United States).
  2. OCLC 33831602
  4. Example: "libelant ": Formerly the party who filed an initiatory Pleading (a formal declaration of a claim) in an ecclesiastical or religious matter or in an admiralty case, corresponding to the plaintiff in actions at law. Since 1966, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Supplementary Admiralty Rules have governed admiralty actions, which are presently commenced by complaint [or the complainant]." West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.; as found at "libelant" The Free Dictionary. Farlex. Retrieved on 13 May 2018.
  5. The Windows Phone application
  6. NCSU Libraries
  7. University of Toronto Library
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