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Oregon (and other State) Courts: Official Dictionary

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The Oregon Judicial Department’s (OJD) 2002 Style Manual specifies the Webster’s Third International New International Dictionary (unabridged ed. 2002) as the court’s “official” (non-legal) dictionary. (Many, possibly all, state appellate courts specify an official dictionary.)

If you do a little research, however, you will find that the 2002 print edition of this dictionary is the same as the 1993 edition, page for page, with the addition of an updated addendum.

You will also find that this dictionary is online, but at a cost – and part of a whole family of the publisher’s dictionaries. If you work for the State of Oregon, you may have access to the online version as part of the state’s subscription plan, which many State employees can use. Your public library may also subscribe to it.

Many public libraries, however, rely on other online subscription dictionaries or on the free online ones, but they may have this “official” court dictionary in print so give them a call if you need an “official” definition for an appellate court brief or other Oregon court document.

NOTES from conversation among law librarians about Webster’s Third: “… spoke with … an editor with Merriam-Webster in Springfield, MA. … The current edition (third) of the Webster’s Third New International Dictionary was originally published in 1961; as a way to add new words or definitions, the editors created an Addenda Section” in 1966. Since that time, a number of printings (= copyright date) have been issued: 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1993 and, most recently, 2002. With each of these printings, the Addenda Section was expanded, but the “substantive” section of the dictionary, beginning with the letter “a” and ending with “zyzzogeton” has remained unchanged.

If you look at [your] copy of Webster’s, you’ll note the Addenda appears at the beginning of the dictionary in a separately paginated section. The Addenda in the 1993 printing runs from page 55a to page 120a; … the Addenda in the 2002 printing runs to page 144a. In both the 1993 and 2002 printings, the definitions begin on page 1 (again, beginning with “a”) and have not been revised since 1961.

… one could purchase a 2002 copyright of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary for XXXX, and while the Addenda section in this dictionary would be more voluminous than that in the 1993 printing, the definitions on page 1 would be the same and the pagination would be the same as in the 1993 volume. The only other difference would be the copyright date. … This type of “problem” for those citing definitions would be the reason the “Chicago Manual of Style” suggests the “facts of publication are often omitted, but the edition (if not the first) must be specified. References to an alphabetically arranged work cite the item (not the volume or page number) preceded by s.v.”