Legal Terminology Projects

The Dictionaries Project

An essential tool to understand Quebec's civil law

The Paul-André Crépeau Centre for Private and Comparative Law launched the Private Law Dictionaries and Bilingual Lexicons project in 1981 to analyse and present the terminology of Quebec private law. Of the first, bilingual edition the French version was published in 1985, while its English counterpart was completed in 1988. Both were followed, in 1991, by a second edition. Many editions of the Dictionnaries are available online.

Keeping up with the evolution of law

In 1991, the adoption of the Civil code of Québec had a profound effect on civilian terminology [1],making a thorough revision of the former editions of the dictionaries necessary.

The third edition is distinguished from its predecessors not only in content but also in form. With regard to content, the current edition is more didactic, not only explaining vocabulary and indexing its legal usage, but also furthering the reader’s comprehension of the terms defined by presenting them within their legal, linguistic and theoretical contexts. It is thus a unique reference tool in Quebec law whose breadth and ambition exceed those of prior editions, and whose principal entries are true lexicographical studies.

As for its form, the new edition of the Dictionary has been divided into individual volumes which each cover a particular area of Quebec private law, thereby adapting the dictionaries to suit their new and expanded content.

Three volumes of the dictionary are now available: Dictionnaire de droit privé de la famille et lexiques bilingues/Private Law Dictionary of the Family and Bilingual LexiconDictionnaire de droit privé et lexiques bilingues - Les obligations/Private Law Dictionnary and Bilingual Lexicons - Obligations; et Dictionnaire de droit privé et lexiques bilingues - Les Biens/Private Law Dictionary and Bilingual Lexicons Property, published in 1999, 2003 and 2012 respectively.

For detailed information on these publications, visit the section Publications.

A distinctive linguistic and legal framework

By presenting Quebec’s private law both in English and French, the Private Law Dictionaries are unique scholarly works exploring Quebec legal terminology in its special, bilingual legal framework. The Dictionaries are the only reference on legal terminology which can claim to reflect the bilingual and bijuridical particularities of Quebec legal culture.

The Dictionary project emphasizes the constant dialogue between the two official languages of Québec. In so doing it studies the role that language plays in legal thinking, by exploring how language shapes the substantive rules of Québec Civil law, both in itself and through interaction with the North American common law.

Generally speaking, the Dictionaries have become an essential tool for Québec jurists, legal translators, Canadian jurists interested in Québec Civil law and, finally, legal scholars working in comparative law.

[1] The Minister of Justice wisely pointed out that "[l]a rédaction de ces dispositions nécessitait des changements importants d'ordre rédactionnel et terminologique" (Commentaires du ministre de la Justice, t 1, Québec, Publications du Québec, 1993 à la p viii). For a description of the lexicographical methodology of the Editorial Committee, see the Les Obligations - Guide to the use of the Dictionary [pdf] of the Private Law Dictionary and Bilingual Lexicons - Obligations.

Guide to English Terminology in the Civil Code of Québec

An educational project

The Guide to the English Terminology of the Civil Code of Québec aims to explore some of the particularities of Quebec civil law as in its English-language manifestation. This innovative linguistic resource contains entries on words appearing in the English text of the Civil Code of Québec that have meanings which depart from everyday and idiomatic English, or which have a specific connotation or usage in the context of the Code. This Guide aims to be a resource for everyone learning, studying, practicing, teaching or translating law. To date 12 entries have been prepared, and more will be added in the future. Although, this project is currently on hold and the Paul-André Crépeau Centre will resume working on it in the near future.

The project has benefited from financial support from the Support Fund for Access to Justice in Both Official Languages, a program of the federal Department of Justice and from Young Canada Works.

Accoucheur Deed Equity Oblique Action
Amenities Discuss/Discussion Good faith Period of grace
Compensation Enterprise Inalienable Simulation

Consult the Guide to the English terminology of the CcQ [pdf]


The Crépeau Centre thanks the Chambre des notaires du Québec and the Department of Justice Canada for their financial support.



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