1. Introduction to Secondary Sources

2. Textbooks

3. Legal Encyclopedias

4. Government Documents

5. Legal Dictionaries

Secondary Sources – Books of Words and Phrases

In many situations – especially in the context of statutory interpretation – the outcome of a case will depend on the meaning or definition given to a particular word or phrase.

Books of Words and Phrases provide listings and definitions of words and phrases that have been considered and defined by courts and other adjudicative bodies.

Books of Words and Phrases are available in print and electronic formats.

Print Format

The two main print sources for Canadian words and phrases are:

Electronic Format

Both Quicklaw and Westlaw Canada now include searchable books of words and phrases.

Video 1.1 Westlaw Canada Words & Phrases Judicially Defined

On the WestlawNext Canada homepage, click on "LawSource" from the menu to the right. From here, you can search for judicial considerations and definitions of words and phrases by clicking on "Words & Phrases Judicially Defined". Enter the word or phrase you would like to consider here (such as "beyond a reasonable doubt"). Be sure to take advantage of the bells and whistles. Here, for example, you can limit your results by jurisdiction or date.

Hit enter or click the search button at the top of the page to execute the search. This search yielded five results. If the number of results is too large, you can continue to narrow your results using the filters and the "search within results" box to the left. The entries displayed include results where all search terms are used within the defined term as well as how many times the specific term was judicially defined. Also included are the subjects and jurisdictions where the term is found. Related terms are also included.

Click on a word or phrase of interest for additional information. Here, are the excerpts and citations for this term sorted by jurisdiction and categorized by subject.

Video 1.2 LexisNexis Quicklaw Canadian Legal Words and Phrases

LexisNexis Quicklaw allows you to search for legal words and phrases through the "Commentary" tab at the top of the page. From here, click on "Canadian Legal Words and Phrases" from the column on the left. Here you can choose to browse an alphabetical list, or use the search function.

You can search for a word or phrase containing your search terms using the "Defined terms" box. You can also execute a keyword search under "Search terms". The keyword search will return legal words and phrases which contain the entered terms found (often within the case citationitself and not necessarily the defined term). Note that the default search with no Boolean operators searches only for an exact match.

Each term includes the word or phrase, the jurisdiction, the case name, citation and excerpt, and the source from which it is found.