Whenever you encounter an unfamiliar term or phrase in your research, you can consult a legal dictionary.
Black's Law Dictionary
Black's Law Dictionary is a useful tool for learning the meaning of legal terms. Below is the definition of attractive nuisance doctrine found in Black's Law Dictionary: Notice that the definition entry below indicates when the term began to be used, and in what general area of law. Black's provides a plain language definition and uses the term in a sentence.
attractive-nuisance doctrine (1903) Torts. The rule that a person who owns property on which there is a dangerous thing or condition that will foreseeably lure children to trespass has a duty to protect those children from the danger <the attractive-nuisance doctrine imposed a duty on the school to protect the children from the shallow, polluted pond on school property>. — Also termed turntable doctrine; torpedo doctrine. See ALLUREMENT; DANGEROUS INSTRUMENTALITY.
Definition entries in Black's often include alternate terms as well as cross-references to other dictionary entries that may be relevant. For example, the entry for attractive nuisance doctrine notes that it is also referred to as the turntable doctrine or the torpedo doctrine, and directs you to the dictionary terms "allurement" and "dangerous instrumentality."
Black's Law Dictionary is available in print and on Westlaw.
You may cite to Black's Law Dictionary in your memos and briefs as persuasive authority for the meaning of a legal term. Rule B15.1 of The Bluebook includes an example of how to correctly cite to Black's Law Dictionary.
There are three necessary elements to a Black's Law Dictionary citation:
For example, you would cite to the definition of the attractive nuisance doctrine as:
Attractive-Nuisance Doctrine, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).
To use Black’s Law Dictionary in Westlaw, start at the homepage, and on the Get Started bar, select Secondary Sources.
From the Secondary Sources page, choose Black’s Law Dictionary under Tools & Resources on the right.
To search for a multi-word phrase like the attractive nuisance doctrine, enter the words in quotation marks into the Dictionary term search box.
Click the link for attractive-nuisance doctrine.
Notice the related terms at the end. If a keyword search for "attractive nuisance" in case law does not retrieve enough cases, you might try searching for cases that use these terms.
Although not considered as authoritative as Black's Law Dictionary, there are several free online legal dictionaries available to browse or search for the meaning of legal terms. They include:
Law.com's dictionary at http://dictionary.law.com/:
Wex, the joint dictionary-encyclopedia provided by Cornell's Legal Information Institute at https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex:
FindLaw's legal dictionary at http://dictionary.findlaw.com/:
Prince's Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations can be helpful when you do not recognize an abbreviation in a source you are reading. For example, you come across the abbreviations A.R.A. while reading a case on the attractive nuisance doctrine and you are uncertain what A.R.A. stands for. Prince's Bieber tells you that A.R.A. could be the abbreviation for the American Railway Association.
Prince's Bieber is particularly helpful when conducting international legal research, to look up unfamiliar case reporter and code abbreviations from foreign countries.
Prince's Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations is available in print.