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You Can Look it Up: The Use of Dictionaries in Interpreting Statutes
Louisville Bar Briefs (2007)
  • Kurt X. Metzmeier
Justice Antonin Scalia's well-known preference for using dictionaries rather than legislative history to interpret statutes is the jumping off point for an examination of the tools of textual analysis. The brief article offers common-sense rules for scientifically selecting dictionaries to interpret statutory language. First, the author describes the most respected unabridged dictionaries and their history. Next, there is a discussion of the principle that the dictionary selected should be relatively contemporaneous with the text interpreted. Finally, the use of specialized dictionaries to interpret the unique terminology of a trade or profession is detailed.
  • legal research,
  • textualism,
  • statutory interpretation,
  • legislative history,
  • dictionaries
Publication Date
July, 2007
Citation Information
Metzmeier, Kurt X., You Can Look it Up: The Use of Dictionaries in Interpreting Statutes. Louisville Bar Briefs, pp. 14-15, July 2007; University of Louisville School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 2008-25. Available at SSRN: