German Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate the German legal materials.

German Legal Abbreviations and English Equivalents

Table of Contents

Brief Overview of German Legal Abbreviations

The German language is (in)famous for its lengthy, compound words, and German legal terminology is no exception. To simplify matters, German legal scholars and practitioners utilize a system of shorthand abbreviations and acronyms. For example, Verwaltungsverfahrensgesetz, the German word for the law of administrative proceedings, is often abbreviated VwVfG

This system of shorthand is by no means limited to abstract legal concepts.  aw codes, the titles of many statutes, the names of courts, and the titles of many legal publications are all routinely abbreviated. As a result, those who do not read or speak German are likely to encounter a bewildering array of unfamiliar abbreviations and acronyms when researching German law.
Use the resources described below to help you quickly decipher some of the most frequently encountered German legal abbreviations and acronyms. For additional guidance, consult the Dictionaries and Legal Dictionaries section of this research guide.

Quick Reference Table (German to English)

The following table includes some of the most frequently encountered German legal abbreviations and acronyms, the German words and phrases they stand for, and their English translations. For law codes and other legal publications that are available in print at the Georgetown Law Library, the call number and a link to the relevant library catalog record are provided. If the library owns multiple editions of a print resource, the link will redirect to the most recent edition. Links to publications that are freely available online also are provided.

Abbreviation/Acronym German Term English Term
BAG Bundesarbeitsgericht Federal Labor Court
BFH Bundesfinanzhof Federal Finance (Tax) Court
BGB Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch
Print: Call No. KK985.51896 .A6 P35 2018
Civil Code
English translation online
BGH Bundesgerichtshof Federal Court of Justice (Federal High Court)
BGBI Bundesgesetzblatt
Online (1949–present): (Browse by date)
Microfiche (1981–2008): Call No. KK10 1949 Micro
Print (1949–1984): Call No. KK10 1949
Federal Law Gazette
BPG Bundespantentgericht Federal Patent Court
BSG Bundessozialgericht Federal Social Court
BVerfG Bundesverfassungsgericht Federal Constitutional Court
BVerwG Bundesverwaltungsericht Federal Administrative Court
GG Grundgesetz
Print: Call No. KK4444.3 .J37 2018
The Basic Law (Federal Constitution)
English translation online
English translation in print: Call No. KK4444.3.A613 2002
GmbH Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung Limited Liability Company (U.S. equivalent)
Private Limited Company (U.K. equivalent)
HGB Handelsgesetzbuch
Print: Call No. KK2045.51897 .H67 2016
Commercial Code
English translation online
English translation in print: Call No. KK2045.51897 .A52 2003
NJ Neue Justiz New Justice (prominent law journal)
NJW Neue Juristische Wochenschrift
Print (1947–present): Call No. KK6 .N48
New Legal Weekly (prominent law journal)
StGB Strafgesetzbuch
Print: Call No. KK7975.51871 .A6 D73 2001
Criminal Code
English translation online
English translation in print: Call No. KK7989 .G47 2008
StPO Strafprozeßordnung
Print: Call No. KK9405.51877 .A6 M497 2019
Code of Criminal Procedure
English translation online
ZPO Zivilprozeßordnung
Print: Call No. KK3815.51877 .A6 A4 2019
Code of Civil Procedure
English translation online

Additional Resources for Deciphering German Legal Abbreviations

The resources described below provide more comprehensive listings of German legal abbreviations and their meanings. Once you’ve deciphered the citation, search the Law Library’s online catalog to see if the source you’ve identified is available in print or in an electronic format. Don’t hesitate to ask a reference librarian if you need assistance.

  • Foreign Law Translations
    The Institute for Transnational Law at the University of Texas maintains this relatively short list of frequently encountered German legal abbreviations. For codes and statutes, English translations of the German names are provided; for journals and other publications, information on how to cite the publication is provided.
  • JuraForum
    JuraForum, an online directory of German lawyers, maintains this free electronic listing of more than a thousand German legal abbreviations. No English translations are provided.
  • Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache (List of Abbreviations for Legal Terminology), 8th ed.
    The current edition of this comprehensive print resource is located in the Reference Collection on the second floor of Williams Library (Call No. REF KK82.2 K57 2015); prior editions are available on the fourth floor.