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Top 7 Spanish-English Legal Dictionaries

If you are a lawyer working with documents in Spanish, you may come across some terms you are not sure about. After all, each Latin American country has a different set of laws, and with them, different terms. Some of these terms contradict terms from other countries that are apparently identical, but carry a different meaning. Other terms can baffle you, and a good dictionary could be the key to unlock the unknown. Here are five dictionaries/glossaries that will aid anyone involved in legal translation.

Javier Becerra

An amazing book that explains just about every Mexican legal term under the sun. Mr. Becerra, a bilingual attorney, leaves no stone unturned. He provides several synonyms in his definitions. Where appropriate, he includes bilingual context. Since the vast majority of legal documents that reach the US are Mexican, you don't want to be without it! Exclusively Spanish into English.

Mr. West, also an attorney, has published a small but fruitful dictionary that is both Spanish into English and English into Spanish. There are two things I like about this book: a) it gives an explanation of the term where necessary and b) it tells you what countries a term is used in.

Guillermo Cabanellas and Eleanor Hoague

Two volume work that extensively covers all areas of law. Not my first port of call, but it has solid definitions.

Not exclusively legal. Covers both directions. Definitions are spot-on.

Though most definitions fit, this dictionary is essentially a word list. If you don't have an idea of what a term means beforehand, it is easy to make a mistake.

Diccionario de Términos Jurídicos, Enrique Alcaraz Varó and Brian Hughes

Both directions. Extensive with definitions and explanations. Some definitions are more explanations than translations of a term. Also, many terms are from Spain, and many definitions are British. This is fine for someone translating between those two variants, but not very useful to me.

I have used this dictionary in the past, and was disappointed. Some definitions are direct translations, and I feel that there are too many synonyms that seem like padding to me. I would not recommend it.

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