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Words and Phrases®

court meaning legal research

A multivolume set of law books published by West Group containing thousands of judicial definitions of words and phrases, arranged alphabetically, from 1658 to the present.

Words and Phrases is a legal research and reference work that is aimed primarily at lawyers. It was first published in 1940 and has been continuously updated since then. It contains words and phrases that have taken on special meaning in the law.

The interpretation or meaning attributed to a word or phrase in a statute, court rule, administrative regulation, business document, or agreement often determines rights, duties, obligations, and liabilities of the parties. Many court decisions are based on the meaning attributed by an appellate court to a single word or phrase. Words and Phrases allows a person to hone in on pertinent cases by selecting key words or phrases contained in a document.

Prior to the introduction of online and CDROM legal research tools, a work such as Words and Phrases played a key role in legal research by leading the researcher to a primary authority, such as a case, statute, or constitutional provision. In 1996 WESTLAW® introduced Words and Phrases as part of its online service. Whenever possible, Words and Phrases entries are written in the exact language the court employed.

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