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LAW - Starting Points - Beginning Your Canadian Legal Research

This guide is intended to assist students and members of the public locate materials for their legal research projects.

What are legal definitions?

In law, the definitions of words and phrases can come from different sources:

  • Legal dictionaries provide definitions of legal terms.
  • Statutory definitions are contained in an act where words and phrases have been defined in the interpretation section of the act itself. These words are defined in the legislation so the definition is established by a law.
  • Judicial definitions are contained in reported Canadian decisions where words and phrases have been defined by a court of law or the judge or judges of these courts. These definitions may also be drawn from reported Tribunal decisions.


Standard dictionaries provide plain meanings and legal dictionaries define legal terminology relating to the law of a jurisdiction. Subject specific glossaries are useful for various types of law.

Online legal dictionaries and glossaries

Statutory definitions

Look in the interpretation section of a statute or act for definitions of words and phrases contained in that act.