Article 3— The word of the law

Title: Macmillan Dictionary lays down the law
Author: Kevin Pike
Date of publication: January 25, 2017
Place of publication: Macmillan Dictionary Blog
Web address:

Pike outlines that over the period of his PhD project at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, he chose to expand on the definitions over 140 existing legal entries, but also to add over 400 completely new, to the dictionary, legal terms. This was done in an attempt to to update the definitions to the most precise meanings, and also to adapt existing definitions to the changes in the legal system, as such ensuring that the dictionary holds the most relevant meaning. An example of this would be how the plaintiff in a case is now referred to as the claimant. This was done to allow the legal system to be more accessible to the average person, in line with some of the key aims of the court, i.e. being accessible and comprehensible to all.

Lexical Shifts: It is clear, that these lexical shifts that are occurring in the court system, that is done in an attempt to ultimately make the court system more accessible to the masses. This is done in line with the concept of a generational shift, from choosing to adopt words that do not carry a latin origin. This is logical, due to the fact that Latin is on a decline, and as such a generational shift is occurring. However, as the article outlines, some of the legal terms, can not be articulated in the same way in English, as they would in Latin.

Initialisms: There is a discussion in relation to initialisms, and their use in the legal system, as the system heavily relies on these to swiftly communicate such topics.

Jargon: In this article, it outlays the legal system’s attempt to break down the Jargon it uses, in an attempt to substitute them for what is perceived as more comprehensible and transparent, as such making the civil courts accessible. It is clear that the use of Jargon, can serve as a way to create a divide between those who understand the legal system, and those who do not. As such, any avoidance of Jargon, should be encouraged, as Jargon is perceived as a uncooperative conversational element, should all parties not understand it.

In my opinion, I agree with the article for a variety of reasons. After doing two years of legal studies in VCE, I have gained minor understanding of certain legal terms. In doing so, I was exposed to both a variety of self explanatory concepts, but also to ones that carried Latin meanings. In addition, I was educated about recent changes in the legal system, and it’s terms. For example, the use of the word plaintiff has now been substituted for claimant. It are these minor changes, that make the legal system more understandable and accessible, and as such has a positive effect. The fact that Pike has invested time and energy, into creating more accurate definitions for legal terms, is time well spent. As it ensures that those who do not understand these terms, have an easily accessible way of finding out the proper meaning, in a context they should be able to understand, as they are explained in plain English.

“It soon became clear to me that although the Macmillan Dictionary already covered basic legal terms rather well, there were numerous omissions”

“400 completely new legal English terms have been added to the dictionary, and 140 existing legal entries have been improved and expanded”

“800 items of legal terminology, explained in plain English”

“procedural law reforms, but also a few linguistic changes to make access to the civil courts more accessible and to make the terminology more comprehensible”

“a plaintiff (which was arguably not that difficult to understand anyway) is now referred to as a claimant.”

“less transparent terms such as interlocutory, Mareva injunction and Anton Piller injunction were all substituted by far more comprehensible terms”

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