Abbreviations of German statutes/Gesetzesabkürzungen

Citing German legislation:

DE: (all references) BGB

EN: (first reference) Civil Code [or German Civil Code] (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch – BGB)
(second reference): either BGB or Civil Code

(Some books on comparative law use the abbreviation CC for the civil code of any country, but this is an exception to the general rule)

Other statutes

Many statutes have a short and a long name. The abbreviation comes from the short name, but the long name should be quoted, either alone or together with the short name. Sometimes the abbreviation comes from a form that is linguistically impossible:

EN: (Bundesvertriebenengesetz – Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der Vertriebenen und Flüchtlinge, BVFG)

EN: Act on Non-Contentious Proceedings (Gesetz über die Angelegenheiten der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit, FGG)

Question from Michael Kadlicz’s blog:
Wer ohne diesen Link zu klicken errät, welche Verordnung so abgekürzt wird, verdient meinen vollsten Respekt.

Legal abbreviations list in the library of the Bundesgerichtshof.

Standard work on legal abbreviations in Germany: Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache, Kirchner / Butz 2003, ISBN 3 89949 026 6

Ditto Austria: AZR. Abkürzungs- und Zitierregeln der österreichischen Rechtssprache und europarechtlicher Rechtsquellen, Friedl / Loebenstein, Wien 2001 (mit Aktualisierungs-Service im Internet), ISBN 3 214 06205 0

4 thoughts on “Abbreviations of German statutes/Gesetzesabkürzungen

  1. I use the following format for translating references to statutes:


    thereafter – ORIGINAL ABBREVIATION or ESTABLISHED APPROXIMATION, e.g. “BGB” or “German Civil Code”.

    I use the ‘official’ abbreviations for the translated names of statutes if they are available, e.g. for European directives etc.

    And no, I didn’t know what “LADV” meant. Oh well… ;-)

  2. Thanks, Derek.

    I should have said that I don’t regard my way as the only way. The reason I was so authoritative was because I usually waffle around. It’s better style if I make up my mind and people can then disagree if they want to.

    Looking at your version, I would prefer to have *outside the brackets* the name I am going to use later. Well, not the abbreviation. So I would use ‘Civil Code’ in my example (or BGB). (But I get the impression that the wide use of abbreviations in the text is common in the USA as well as in Germany, but not in Britain).

    Another thing: should one put the German name in italics? A client wants both the German name and the abbreviation in italics.

    Gosh, looking at the initials on your email, I can’t possibly guess who you are!

  3. That is interesting that you ask about using italics. I recently italicized the German original and the abbreviation in my first reference to the statute – I didn’t put subsequent references in italics (I used “German Civil Code”). The client seemed to like it, even though it did lead to huge cites, e.g. “Section 823 Subsection 1 of the German Civil Code”. My reasoning was that they are foreign words and should be somehow set apart from the rest of the words. That may be a compromise that your client could live with – I wouldn’t italicize the translation of the statute (in your example “Civil Code”).

    If I had to persuade a client not to use italics, I would argue that there is no basis for doing so in the Blue Book, which is what I generally follow when citing (at least for translations into US-English). I do, however, deviate from their rules a bit – it suggests: “Grundgesetz [GG] [Constitution] art. 51 (F.R.G.)”.

    As far as abbreviations are concerned, they are certainly used a lot in both America and Germany. As I mentioned above, I tend to spell out the names in the text body – I tend to use abbreviations where the cites need to be short, e.g. in footnotes etc.

    Otherwise, the Blue Book suggests the following for “Civil Law and Other Non-Common Law Statutes” (Rule 20.5.2): “In accordance with rule 20.1.3, use the full publication name the first time the publication is cited, indicating in brackets the abbreviation that will be used subsequently.”

  4. That’s what my client does: only the foreign title and abbreviation are italicized. I found it odd to italicize the abbreviations, but the Oxford Style Guide says to do so if they stand for a foreign term (client wants British English, hence the Blue Book is not persuasive – I have got the Blue Book here but waiting for the AWLD version – or is that ALWD?)

    EU references of course have their own rules.

    The quotation at § level is a different subject. I usually write in running text ‘section 823 (1)’. Since a lot of what I do goes to international readers, that avoids the subsection /para. distinction between BE and AmE.

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