[Lexicog] Digest Number 495

Claire Bowern bowern at RICE.EDU
Thu Jan 19 02:23:03 UTC 2006

If it's a legal question, you should really be getting legal advice. My 
answer presumes that this is a hypothetical question, since I'm not a 

Your publisher will have a statement with their copyediting guidelines 
of how much quotation is allowable before you need to seek copyright 
clearance. It depends very much on what you're doing (which you haven't 
told us). For example, if you're writing an article on lexicography and 
are comparing definitions from different dictionaries, you would not 
usually need special permission from the publisher to do that unless you 
were quoting extensively (although you would need to acknowledge the 
source). However, if you're compiling a book of definitions from 
existing dictionaries, I highly doubt that you can  just republish 
existing definitions, even with acknowledgment, and I can't think of any 
publisher who'd want to take the risk of being sued.

Perhaps if you tell is more about what you want to do we can give you 
more advice (and I for one like to know the name of the person I'm 
discussing things like this with). And you should talk to your publisher.


> I am Compiling selected words and their definitions from the English 
> language.  My question is:  Can I use Webster or any other dictionary 
> definition in a published work without paraphrasing or do I have to 
> quote and give source for each definition.  I am getting definitions 
> from different sources.  This is a legal question.

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