The first edition was published in 1891 by West Publishing, with the full title A Dictionary of Law: containing definitions of the terms and phrases of American and English jurisprudence, ancient and modern, including the principal terms of international constitutional and commercial law, with a collection of legal maxims and numerous select titles from the civil law and other foreign systems. A second edition was published in 1910 as A Law Dictionary. Black died in 1927 and future editions were titled Black's Law Dictionary.
The sixth and earlier editions of the book additionally provided case citations for the term cited, which was viewed by lawyers as its most useful feature, providing a useful starting point with leading cases. The invention of the Internet made legal research easier therefore many state- or circuit-specific case citations and outdated or overruled case citations were omitted from the seventh edition in 1999. The eighth edition introduced a unique system of perpetually updated case citations and cross-references to legal encyclopedias. The current edition is the eleventh, published in 2019.
As many legal terms are derived from a Latinroot word, the dictionary provides a pronunciation guide for such terms. In addition, the applicable entries provide pronunciation transcriptions pursuant to those found among North American practitioners of law or medicine.
An online version of the tenth edition can be accessed through the paid Westlaw legal information service, and is available as an application for iOS devices.
The second edition of Black's Law Dictionary, published in 1910, is now in the public domain and is widely reproduced online. References to case law are out-of-date, and that edition of the dictionary omits legal terms that have since come into use and does not reflect contemporary changes in how legal terms are used.