New Edition: Dukelow, the Dictionary of Canadian Law, 4th Ed (Carswell, 2011)

I was happy to receive and thumb through the new 4th edition of Daphne Dukelow’s The Dictionary of Canadian Law (Carswell, 2011).

It has been close to 6 years since the previous editon was issued. In that time, Dukelow notes in her preface that one “sea change” in legal language has been a movement to plainer English in legislation and judicial reasons. According to her, the new edition focuses more on pure legal terminology and less on industries and activities regulated by law. Dukelow also notes that Betsy Nuse helped with this new edition (and on a historical note: in the Preface to the First Edition, found in the current edition, I was reminded of the role played by Gary Rodrigues – a current SLAW contributor – in overseeing the publication of the first edition).

By way of contrast in terms of length, I note that the last entry in the 3rd edition for “Zoning Bylaw” was on page 1429, whereas that same last definition in the new edition is on page 1411, meaning that there has been a slight reduction in the total number of pages.

Although it is impossible to spot all of the differences, Dukelow has clearly removed older, less useful content to allow for some new content, such as a new entries for “Cyber-bullying” and “Forward-looking information.”

As with past editions, the dictionary contains ample entries for common Latin legal phrases and would, I guess, have citations to case law or legislation for likely around 60% of the definitions.

I like that the new edition has “thumbnail indents” for each letter of the alphabet, making it easier to open up the page to the relevant section of the dictionary.

However, I did notice a few peculiarities where one wonders whether there was a need to define a particular term. For example, there is an entry for “Dead body” with the definition simply being “A corpse,” with the corresponding reverse definition not being entirely parallel (i.e., “Corpse” is defined as “The dead body of a person.”).

Out of curiousity, I ran an unscientific search on Westlaw Canadian cases on the phrase “dictionary of canadian law” compared to “black’s law dictionary” over the last 1, 3 and 10 years to compare citation practice. As I had (loosely) predicted, with the passage of time, there appears to be a small but growing trend in the increase of citations by Canadian jurists to our Canadian dictionary instead of to the American classic, proportionately, with the passage of time:

– past year: Canadian – cited 35 times, American – cited 192 times

– past 3 years: Canadian – cited 109 times, American – cited 678 times

– past year: Canadian – cited 343 times, American – cited 2388 times

Although there is a Canadian electronic close equivalent from the same publisher (Sanagan’s Encyclopedia of Words and Phrases on Carswell’s eReference Library), and although there is an e-version of Black’s Law Dictionary (from the same publisher in the States), I am not aware of any plans to make the The Dictionary of Canadian Law available online. However, I suspect there may be a market for larger firms for a licensed online version. If they are otherwise paying several hundred dollars for multiple print copies, a large firm might be willing to pay a little bit more to license an online version to the entire firm.

All in all, an (obviously) welcome additon to any law library and the author/publisher are to be commended.

I did learn a new word: Gynarcy (Government by women) (although there was no mention of the alternative spelling of “Gynarchy” which seems to be the preferred spelling from Google and the OED).


  1. Gary P. Rodrigues

    Thank you Ted for your reference to my role in the creation of the first comprehensive English language Dictionary of Canadian Law. I would be remiss if I didn’t use this opportunity to provide background on how it came about that Carswell developed and funded the creation of both the Dictionary of Canadian Law and the Words and Phrases volumes of the Canadian Abridgment.

    The idea of creating the Dictionary was triggered by the prior publication of a quick and dirty legal dictionary based on a dictionary originally published in another commonwealth country, with the addition of a random collection of Canadian terms, that purported to be the first such dictionary published in Canada. Gail Dykstra, a senior staff member of the Canadian Law Information Council, drew the existence of this publication to my attention and asked if there was anything that could be done about it. The only solution that came to mind was to create a real English language Dictionary of Canadian Law, designed and created for Canadians. Doris Rush, my assistant at the time, urged me to do just that.

    To do the job properly and in a timely manner required an author, a method, and the approval for making a major investment in a project that would not be profitable for The Carswell Company until the third or even the fourth edition of the Dictionary was published.

    Author Team – The easiest part of the job was to identify the author team. Not long after the basic framework for the project was developed, Daphne Dukelow and Betsy Nuse approached me looking for a suitable publishing project to pursue in a full time basis. At the time, Daphne was a highly regarded senior law officer in the Crown Law Office (Civil) – of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, with an interest in things literary and academic. By temperament Daphne was ideally suited to assuming the role of master lexicographer, while Betsy Nuse, an experienced professional in the publishing field, was the perfect complement in helping to ensure that the work was done in an organized and timely fashion.

    Method – For the first edition, definitions were to be sourced in Canadian legal treatises and federal and provincial statutes and regulations, while Latin expressions were taken from Jowitt’s Dictionary of English Law. The second edition was be expanded to included definitions sourced in Canadian law reports, the data for which would be gathered and published as the Words and Phrases volumes of The Canadian Abridgment.

    The Role of Alan Turnbull – Needless to say, the business case was a non-starter in strictly financial terms. I was fortunate at the time to work for Alan Turnbull, the CEO of The Carswell Company, who invariably provided support for the development of large scale undertakings that had long term value to both the legal profession and the company. Without his unwavering support, neither of these publications would have seen the light of day.

    Editorial Team – To proceed as efficiently as possible, data had to be gathered and forwarded to the authors for them to use in selecting definitions from statutes and regulations in as efficient manner as possible. With regard to the Dictionary, I am particularly proud of the fact that my sister Sharon headed the team to gather definitions from the legislation, ably assisted by her partner Lorie Acton, and my mother Norma. In the pre digital era, these onerous tasks were completed by reviewing the print publications, photocopying the entries, mounting them on cards and then alphabetizing every definition.

    The Words and Phrases project was an even larger undertaking involving a team of more than a hundred young lawyers who reviewed every page of virtually every print series of law reports. This team was led by Catherine McKeown, Rae Blackburn, Cheryl Finch, Ishnan Kaur, Toni Robinson with the support of others too numerous to list, whose names have been published in the Preface of the Words and Phrases volumes.

    The popularity of both the Dictionary of Canadian Law and Words and Phrase attests to the quality of the workmanship in the creation and publication of both projects and to the foresight of The Carswell Company in fully supporting both initiatives in the long term interest of the legal profession.