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Understanding our system (it's very simple)

Australian Law Dictionary

Understanding our system (it's very simple)

  • Parts of speech and obsolete terms: As most entries are nouns, we don't make a special point of saying (n) each time. But if it's another part of speech, we mark it: (v) for verb; (adj) for adjective; and (obs) for obsolescent or obsolete.

  • Etymology: If the Latin or Old French derivation is interesting, or it seems helpful to know how the meaning arose, we list it. Otherwise we don't.

  • Latin phrases: If a Latin or foreign phrase is still commonly used by lawyers, or is genuinely something any lawyer worth their salt would know, we list it. That is why cum grano salis is there. But we don't list legal phrases that make little sense in current practice.

  • Pronunciation: If you might embarrass yourself by mispronouncing a word, we warn you (it's best-iality not beast-iality), but we don't usually give pronunciation guides. And when we do, it isn't in phonetics, because our research suggests that people find the phonetic help harder than the word itself.

  • Citations: To fit in as many cases and examples of legislation as we could, we reluctantly had to trim them. They take a lot of room, and they are easy enough now to locate online, so we give only one citation for a case, even if it appears in multiple reports, and we only give a pinpoint reference if we have used a direct quote; even then, it is only a page number, instead of ‘per Dixon CJ at p 49’. We ask for readers' indulgence here – and remind students that formal writing requires more detailed quoting and more extensive pinpoint referencing.

  • Academic references: Because this is a dictionary, not an academic text, entries are not treated as mini-journal articles with references and a bibliography. We try to explain a term as clearly as we can, but it is not the task of a dictionary to provide lists of distinguished writers in the field, or to discuss terms in a scholarly way. Where a particular term is noticeably associated with a specific author and publication we have indicated that briefly (author's name and year). That serves the purpose of alerting the reader and giving a starting point for further academic enquiry without taking the dictionary beyond its purpose. At the level of generality of this dictionary, most terms don't fall into that category.

  • Websites: If there is a useful website with a lot of information, we give the website in the entry. We also list websites in the Abbreviations section (pages xxxii–xxxvi).

  • Abbreviations: Titles of organisations are set out in full in the entry headword. Be aware that that changes the way the entries sort. In other entries that refer to organisations that commonly have abbreviations, we use the abbreviated form to save space (e.g. ATO). If you need to check an abbreviation, look in the Abbreviations section. Where an organisation has a long title starting with an unexpected word and is strongly associated with a more helpful key word, we list it under that word: e.g. the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) appears under refugees (UN office) rather than under Office.