Black's Law Dictionary is the most widely-used law dictionary for the law of the United States. It was founded by Henry Campbell Black. It has been cited as legal authority in many Supreme Court cases (see Secondary authority). The latest editions, including abridged and pocket versions, are useful starting points for the layman or student when faced with an unfamiliar legal word. It is the reference of choice for definitions in legal briefs and court opinions.
The first edition was published in 1891, and the second edition in 1910, long before the first BIG edition of the Oxford English Dictionary was completed in 1928. 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 The Internet made legal research easier than it ever had been, so many state- or circuit-specific case citations and outdated or overruled case citations were dropped from the seventh edition in 1999.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.
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 latest edition can be accessed through the paid Westlaw legal information service and as of late 2006, West Academic has published Black's Law Dictionary Digital, 8th edition (ISBN-13 9780314176103) which has toolbars that integrate with Microsoft Word, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer. The second edition of Black's Law Dictionary (1910) is now in the public domain. The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd. has reprinted the first and second editions (ISBN 0-9630106-0-3 and ISBN 1-886363-10-2, respectively).
- Bryan A. Garner, editor, Black's Law Dictionary 8th ed. (West Group, 2004) ISBN 0-314-15199-0.
- Bryan A. Garner, editor, Black's Law Dictionary 7th ed. (West Group, 1999) ISBN 0-314-22864-0.
- Black's Law Dictionary 6th ed. (West Publishing, 1990)
- Black's Law Dictionary 5th ed. (West Publishing, 1979) ISBN 0-8299-2041-2.
- Black's Law Dictionary, 4th ed. (St. Paul: West, 1951)
- Black's Law dictionary, 3d ed. (West Publishing Co., 1933)
- Bryan A. Garner, editor, Black's Law Dictionary 3d pocket ed. (West Group, 2006) ISBN 0-314-15862-6.
- Bryan A. Garner, editor, Black's Law Dictionary 2d pocket ed. (West Group, 2001) ISBN 0-314-25791-8.
- Black's Law Dictionary, 2d ed. (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1910) ISBN 1-886363-10-2
- Black's Law dictionary, 1st ed. (St. Paul, Minn.: West Publishing, 1891) ISBN 0-9630106-0-3