List of Legal Terms

List of Legal Terms in the United States

List of Legal Terms with meaning of 1920

The following is a list of some of the most important legal terms commonly employed in the United States and Canada.

Abalienation. — In civil law, the act of transferring a title in real or personal property from one person to another.

Abandonment. — (a) The act of voluntarily leaving a person to whom one is bound by ties of obligation, as husband, wife, etc.; (b) the relinquishment of one’s rights in a possession or claim.

Abator. — (a) One who, without legal right, enters a freehold upon the death of its possessor, and before the heir or devisee; (b) a person who removes a nuisance.

Abetment. — In criminal law, the act of encouraging, counselling or inciting a felony.

Abeyance. — A state of uncertainty or of expectation.

Abjudication. — In civil law, the act of divesting a debtor of his real estate for the benefit of his creditors by means of judicial decree.

Abjuration. — The negative part of the oath of allegiance by the taking of which foreigners desiring to become citizens of the United States solemnly abjure their allegiance to the former sovereign.

Able. — In civil law, having the necessary qualifications; fit.

Abolition. — A suppression of proceedings, or permission to stay further prosecution.

Abrogation. — A term denoting the annulment of a law by the act of legislature or by usage.

Absentee. — One who is not within the jurisdiction of a particular court.

Absolute Estate. — An estate the right in which has been determined so unconditionally that the owner is deemed qualified to take immediate and unlimited possession.

Absolution. — In civil law, a formal sentence or decree declaring a person to be innocent of the crime with which he has been charged.

Absque hoc. — A term used in law in the denial of some matter of fact that has been alleged and is repeated.

Absque tali causa. —A term used in law to denote “without such cause.”

Abs. re. — An abbreviation of the Latin phase “absente reo,” used in law to indicate the absence of the defendant.

Abuse of Distress. — Such use of an animal or chattel distrained that the distrainer lays himself liable to prosecution for misappropriation.

Abuse of Powers. — Used (a) in civil law to denote the act of resorting to intentional irregularity in order to gain a legal advantage over one’s opponent; (b) in criminal law to denote a use of legal processes for illegal purposes, as when a criminal complaint is made merely for the purpose of coercing the payment of a debt, or when valuable property is sold on execution to satisfy a very small debt.

Acceptilation. — In civil law, a release made by a creditor to a debtor without consideration and when the debt has not been paid.

Accomplice. — In criminal law, any participator in an offense, either before or after its commission.

Accrue. — In civil and criminal law, to become an enforceable right, as the statute of limitation, which accrues by lapse of time.

Accumulative Judgment. — A second judgment, which does not begin to exercise its effect until after the first judgment has expired.

Acquiescence. — (a) Used in Canadian law as a synonym for “free consent”; (b) a term used to denote any neglect to take legal proceedings that might naturally imply consent to the matter in hand.

Act in pais. — A term denoting an official act that has been performed out of court and has not been recorded.

Acts of Court. — See Law, Legal Acts.

Acuerdo. — A formal decision or decree of a qualified court.

Ac etiam. — A term used to denote the introduction to the statement of the real cause of action in a case where it was necessary to allege a fictitious cause of action.

Address. — In equity pleading, the technical introduction in a bill of the court in which a remedy has been sought.

Ademption. — The annulment of a grant or the lapse of a legacy by the testator, either by satisfying it or by manifesting an intention to revoke it.

Adjudication. — (a) The formal judgment of a court; (b) a decree in which the court declares an ascertained fact to be such, as in cases of bankruptcy.

Adjudication, Former. — A prior decision in a case between the same parties employed to bar any subsequent litigation covering the same or similar points in dispute.

Adjunction. — The act of affixing one person’s property to that of another, as when one erects a building upon another’s land, etc.

Admeasurement. — A term used to denote the act of ascertaining and laying off the portion due, as in cases of the settlement of an estate, the adjustment of damages, or of dower right. Sometimes known as admensuration.

Adminicle. — Synonymous for corroboratory evidence.

Admittance. — In civil law, the act of giving possession of a copyhold estate.

Adpromissor. — Synonymous for security, or bail.

Ad quod damnum. — (a) A term used to designate a writ issued commanding an inquiry as to the damage liable to result from the opening of a highway, or the institution of other public improvement; (b) the order under which the compensation for damage is paid when private property has been seized for public uses.

Advowson. — The right of presentation to a vacant benefice (q.v.).

Affeerment. — A term used to denote the assessment of a pecuniary penalty according to the circumstances of the case.

Affiliation. — Used to denote the act of determining the paternity of a child, that the obligation for its proper maintenance may be judicially fixed.

Affirmance. — The confirmation by a higher court of the findings of a lower court.

Affirmative. — A term used in judicial proceedings to designate the side upon which the burden of proof must fall.

Aiding And Abetting. — In criminal law, a term used to denote the act of a person who, while not directly responsible for the commission of a felony, has supported, sustained and rendered aid to its perpetrators.

Aleatory Contract. — A term used in civil law to denote that this document, is a contract, the fulfilment of the conditions of which depends upon a contingent event.

Allowance. — A term used in law to denote an extra sum awarded in addition to regular costs.

Ambidexterity. — A term applied to the act of a juror who takes money from both parties to a suit and who promises to render his verdict in favor of each of them.

Ambulatory. — A term used in civil law to denote that a thing is capable of being altered; thus, the return of a sheriff is ambulatory until it has become a matter of record.

Amercement. — Synonymous with affeerment.

Amicable Action. — A term used in law to denote that the action at issue has been commenced and is being prosecuted by mutual consent of both parties to the proceedings, in order that they may obtain the decision of the court on the matter as a question of law.

Amortization. — The conveyance of property to a corporation.

Ancestor. — In law, one who has preceded another in the possession of an inheritance, whether he be a progenitor or a collateral relative.

Ancillary Letters of Administration. — In law, the term “ancillary” denotes that the administration is a local and subordinate one, covering such part of the assets of a decedent as are not only without his domicile but which the law requires should be collected and applied to the satisfaction of the claims of creditors, the surplus being remitted to the principal administrator.

Annulment. — A judicial act making void retrospectively as well as prospectively, as in the annulment of a marriage.

Antecessor. — Synonymous for an ancestor.

Appellant. — The person appealing, or removing a cause from the lower to the higher court.

Appendant. — Any right or privilege that may pass with an inheritance.

Application. — In civil law. the appropriation of a debtor’s assets among several creditors when the payment is insufficient to meet all obligations in full.

Appointment. — The designation, by a person having the right to do so, of a beneficiary to take the use of an estate created under a previous will or deed.

Approver. — In criminal law, one who turns state’s evidence by confessing his part in a felony and giving evidence against all his accomplices in the commission of the crime.

Arm. — In law an arm is any object that a man may take in hand while in anger with the intention of assaulting another.

Array. — (a) The act of empanelling a jury; (b) the jury itself.

Asportation. — Used in criminal law to denote the felonious removal of goods from one place to another.

Assay. — The examination of weights and measures by the legal standard.

Attempt. — An “attempt,” to be a crime in law, must be an act done in part execution of the design to commit the felony; the mere preparation, without an effort at commission, not being a criminal offense.

Attendant. — In civil law, a person who owes a service to another.

Attentate. — (a) A question improperly attempted by an inferior judge; (b) something done after an extra-judicial appeal.

Attorn. — In civil law, to acknowledge tenancy under a person who was not the original landlord but who has since claimed to have become such.

Authentic. — Designating an action which has been executed with all respect to the formalities of law, performed by the proper persons and attested before the proper authorities. An “authentic act” in civil law is a deed that has been properly performed and attested before a proper magistrate.

Aver. — (a) To allege as a fact; (b) to offer in evidence.

Avoidance, Plea in. — A plea in which the defendant, without denying the plaintiff’s allegation, introduces some new facts in the hope of evading its effect.

Bequest. — Personal property left to a person by will.

Bill in Equity. — The pleading in an equity suit in which the plaintiff explains the circumstances upon which he bases his prayer for relief.

Bill of Exceptions. — In common-law practice, a document drawn after a trial by the unsuccessful party in which he presents all the rulings complained of as errors at the time of trial, and all the exceptions taken thereto, in order that they may be considered by the court to which he has appealed. See Bill.

Bill of Particulars. — A document in which the particulars of the matter at issue are set forth in detail.

Bona Fide. — In law, designating an act done without fraudulent intent. Thus, a “bona-fide purchaser” is a person who has purchased something for the price asked and without notice of an adverse claim; a “bona-fide possessor” is one who possesses something without the knowledge that there are others who have a better right in its title.

Brief. — (a) A systematically arranged and concisely expressed, but formal, memorandum of the points of law or of fact that are to be brought out in argument or developed in the examination of witnesses at the trial; (b) a writ summoning the person upon whom it is served to answer to the action.

Burden of Proof. — A term used to denote the obligation which rests upon one of the parties to a legal action to produce sufficient evidence to establish the fact that he has alleged in his complaint under penalty of having judgment entered against him, and this burden is not shifted until the party upon whom it has first rested has submitted sufficient evidence to turn the presumption in his favor.

Capias. — In civil law, a writ directing that the person of the defendant be taken into custody. The most common kind of writs of capias are (1) the “capias ad respondendum,” under which the body is taken to answer before judgment has been declared; and (2) the “capias ad satisfaciendum,” which designates that the body execution was taken after judgment had been entered.

Caption. — A document or part of a document setting forth the time and place that an action at law has been taken, with the court of authority before which it was performed, and such other particulars as might be required to render it valid, all of which information must have been written upon or attached to the paper to which it relates.

Carriage. — A term used in equity practice to designate the party to whom the right of going forward with the proceedings has been entrusted.

Case. — The term applied to any suit, or action in court.

Cause. — A legal proceeding calling for judicial decision.

Cause of Action. — The condition of facts which entitles one party to bring action against another.

Cause to Show. — A term usually applied to denote an order from the court commanding a person to present a reason for some action, as why he should not be punished for contempt of court, etc.

Cesser. — (1) A term denoting that a person has neglected to perform the service or make the payment ordered by the court for two years; (2) a cessation, as of liability.

Cession. — The voluntary surrender of a debtor’s assets to satisfy his creditors. Also termed “cessio bonorum.”

Charge. — An address delivered by a judge at the conclusion of a trial in which he instructs the jury in relation to the points of law, the weight of evidence, etc.

Charging Part. — In a bill of equity, that part in which the plaintiff alleges other and anticipatory evidence, or introduces matter to which he wishes the defendant’s answer.

Cheat. —? A fraud committed by imposition. Such an act is punishable by law: (1) when it deprives another of his property, even when it is not great enough to amount to a felony; and (2) when it is accomplished by some method other than that of mere words, as in the use of false weights or measures or in the substitution of worthless articles for those of real value.

Claimant. — (a) One who brings suit to obtain something which he demands as his right; (b) in admiralty proceedings, this term is applied to the person who is permitted to defend an action “in rem” brought against certain goods in which he claims property right.

Claim Notice. — A term used in mining law to denote that a miner has posted a notification of his intended occupancy upon a piece of public land.

Clause. — (a) A term used to denote a collocation of words which might be removed from the instrument without affecting its intelligibility; (b) used to specify a distinct proviso, as a clause in a contract. The term “assumption clause” denotes a stipulation frequently inserted in a deed to property upon which there is a mortgage or other incumbrance, that, under its operation, the payment of said debt may be assumed by the grantee to the exoneration of the original debtor. The “Enacting Clause” is the leading declaration of a statute, which usually begins “Be it enacted,” etc. An “Interpretation Clause” defines the meaning and limitations of words used in an act, while the “Saving Clause” is that which exempts something which might otherwise be included in the operation of the instrument or statute.

Codicil. — An instrument containing anything which a testator might wish to add, revoke or explain in relation to his will. Although supplementary to the will itself it is actually a part of it. See Will.

Cognizance. — (a) A plea admitting the facts as alleged in the declaration; (b) in actions for replevin, a plea that the defendant holds the goods in question contrary to his right; (c) the action of a court in taking authoritative notice of a cause.

Collateral Ancestors. — A term used in civil law to denote relatives, or antecessors who are not progenitors.

Collateral Facts. — Facts considered foreign to the matter at issue.

Collateral Issue. — Something outside of the main question at issue.

Collateral Proceedings. — Proceedings brought, not for the direct purpose of impeaching the prior proceedings, but as a fresh action, as opposed to a “direct” action.

Collateral Security. — Additional security.

Collateral Testimony. — Confirmatory testimony.

Collation. — A term used in civil law to indicate that former advancements of a decedent’s property have been returned in order that the estate may be equitably divided among all the heirs.

Collocation. — The allotment among creditors of the proceeds of a judicial sale that has been made to satisfy their claims.

Collusion. — A term used in law to denote a private, or secret, understanding by which two or more parties agree to act as though at variance with one another in order that they may prejudice those who are not a party to their secret and so obtain a remedy to which they are not legally entitled.

Comity of Nations. — A term used in international law to define that spirit of courtesy which causes one nation to recognize the laws and institutions of another in such a manner as to permit them to take effect within its own territory.

Commercial Law. —The term by which the laws relating to commerce are known. These include all laws regarding shipping, bills of exchange, insurance, brokerage and general commercial affairs. See Commercial Law.

Comminatory. — Designating an act of imposing such a heavy forfeiture in a business transaction that it cannot be enforced in a court of justice.

Common Law. — A term used to define that body of law that has been derived from such sources as the reports of adjudged cases, from the opinions of legal authorities, and from popular usage and custom, rather than from any statutory enactments. See Law, Common.

Community Property. — A term used in civil law, and in the statutes of several States, to designate the property of husband and wife, exclusive of the antenuptial property of either, and of the property secured by either through the avenue of bequest or gift.

Compensation. — Used in civil law to denote the annulment of a debt by a counterclaim which the debtor holds against his creditor. See Mandate.

{{sc|Compensatory Damage,— A term used in civil law to define such damage as may have been estimated as a fair equivalent for the injury received.

Competence. — (a) Legal right and authority to act; (b) also used in regard to evidence to denote its legal fitness to be heard.

Complainant. — The plaintiff in, or one who commences, a legal action against another, or in whose behalf a criminal prosecution is instituted. The claim for relief upon which such an action is brought is commonly known as the complaint.

Conclusion. — (a) The decision or finding in a case; (b) the end of a pleading; (c) an estoppel or bar by which one is held to the position which he has taken. A “conclusion of fact” is a decision on the part of a judge or referee as to the actual facts in the matter at issue; a “conclusion of law” is a similar decision in which the legal rights and obligations of the parties to the action resulting from the conclusion of fact are clearly specified.

Conclusive Evidence. — A term applied to testimony that possesses such weight as to preclude any contradiction of the fact in question.

Concurso. — A term in civil law usually applied to the litigation, or opportunity for litigation, which exists when several creditors, acting adversely to one another, claim the right to share in an estate, the object being to make one accounting cover all the claims against the fund.

Concussion. — Used in civil law as a synonym for extortion.

Condonation. — Used to denote an act of remission by which a husband or wife pardons a matrimonial offense which one knows that the other has committed by permitting the guilty party to return to all conjugal privileges. It is by such an act that the innocent party loses all right to seek a remedy for the offense in question.

Confirmation. — Used in civil law to denote the perfection of the title in an estate or possession.

Conflict. — Used legally to indicate the opposition existing between the laws of various jurisdictions when an effort is made to apply them in reference to each other.

Confusion. — A term used in civil law to denote the extinction of an obligation owing to the fact that the two persons necessary to its continuance have become one person, as when one has become the heir of the other, etc.

Conjoint. — Used in civil law to indicate a person who has a mutual interest with another in an enterprise or obligation.

Connivance. —The act of having a secret understanding with another; usually employed in relation to a wrongful act.

Consideration. — A term used in law to denote the remuneration that a contracting party accepts in exchange for something else or in return for a service rendered. A “concurrent consideration” is a consideration received at the time of the making of the agreement; an “executed consideration” is one previously received; an “executory consideration,” one to be received at a date subsequent to the agreement. The term “good consideration” is used to define that natural love and affection which is usually considered an adequate motive for the transfer of property without a valuable equivalent, except as against creditors. A “valuable consideration” is an equivalent that must be admitted to be of pecuniary value. “Want of consideration” is the lack of any equivalent whatever, and “failure of consideration” denotes that an apparently good equivalent has afterward become worthless. See Mandate.

Consolidation. — Used in civil law to denote the merging of the profit of land with the property.

Construction. — (a) Used to denote an intelligent reading with such explanations as may be necessary to define the meaning of the text; (b) when uncertainty exists as to the actual intent of an instrument; any altered reading of the text designed to show its proper application is also termed a “construction.”

Contempt. — A term usually applied to define the disobedience to, or open disrespect for, a court or legislative assemblage that has come to be known as “contempt of court,” an offense that may be committed either in or outside of the courtroom, and which is punishable by commitment to prison or by the imposition of a fine. The term “constructive contempt” is applied when the offense, while not committed in the presence of the court, is of such a character that the law is obliged to take cognizance of it, whether it was performed intentionally or not. Any wilful or aggressive disobedience or disorder is termed “criminal contempt,” while an act committed in the presence of the court is known as a “direct contempt.” A person who has been committed for this act against the dignity of the judiciary, and who has not purged himself therefrom, is said to be “in contempt.”

Contraband. — The term applied to goods that are prohibited from importation or exportation by the laws of the country. Such goods, when handled illegally, subject one to the charge of smuggling.

Contract. — Used in the civil law to denote a document in which the rights and agreements of the two or more parties concerned in the obligation are specifically defined that they may become enforceable by law. Among the many terms used in relation to the making or execution of contracts, the following are among those which are most commonly employed: Accessory contract, one made to secure the performance of a previous contract; aleatory contract (q.v.); bare contract, an unconditional surrender or agreement; commutative contract, one in which each party gives and receives an equivalent; contract of record, one that had been entered before a judicial tribunal, as a judgment, etc.; executed contract, one in which the thing agreed upon has been done; executory contract, one in which the thing agreed upon has yet to be done; express contract, one in which the agreement is expressly stipulated in writing; gambling contract, one in which the parties agree to make good all differences that may be occasioned by chance within a specified time, but such contracts cannot be enforced at law; implied contract, one that may be imputed by construction, as when by some valuable exchange or service rendered justice demands that the contract be carried out as implied; indeterminate contract, one in which the terms cannot be fixed until other motives act; joint contract, one in which the parties are bound to perform all the obligaitons of the agreement, or are entitled to receive the benefit of them; mutual contract, one in which the obligation assumed by each party is in view of the obligation assumed by the other party; oral contract, one depending upon word of mouth alone; simple contract, a contract not under seal; special contract, one in which the thing to be done is specified in detail under seal; verbal contract, same as oral contract; voidable contract, one liable to be made void but which is binding until such notice is given; void contract, one that is not legally binding upon either party. See Contract.

Contribution. — In civil law, the amount levied upon each of several persons having mutual interests in the same enterprise to equalize the loss suffered or the payments made. A “suit for contribution” is an action brought to compel the payment of such proportionate shares.

Conversion. — (a) An unauthorized attempt to exercise the rights of ownership over personal property belonging to another; (b) an assumption in equity that real property has been converted into personal property or vice versa when the owner has shown in a proper manner that such was his intention.

Corpus Juris Civilis. — Body of the Civil Law.

Cost. — The sum fixed by law as the amount to be charged as the expense for bringing suit. In actions at law such costs are usually aggregated that they may be paid by the losing party when final judgment is entered.

Courts-Martial. — See Law, Military.

Covenant. — In civil law, any agreement under seal.

Covert. — A term used to denote that a person is under protection; usually applied to a woman, and especially to one who is married.

Covin. — An agreement in which two or more parties have entered into collusion to the detriment of another party.

Credible Witness. — One who is qualified to testify and who cannot be impeached as unworthy of credit.

Creditor’s Action. — (a) The term applied to a bill in equity, in which one or more creditors, acting for all other creditors, seek to reach assets that could not legally be sold on execution that they may obtain an accounting and due settlement by law; (b) the same term is applied to the bill that may be brought by creditors seeking to set aside a transfer of assets as a fraudulent transaction.

Criminal Law. — That body of law which relates to crimes and their punishment. See Law, Criminal.

Cross-action. — A suit brought by the defendant in a previous action against the plaintiff therein.

Cumulation. — A combination of causes for action, or defenses, so joined that all must be tried together.

Curia Advisari Vult. — A term denoting a postponement after argument to give the court time for deliberation.

Dative. — Designating something that may be disposed of at pleasure.

De Bene Esse. — A legal term denoting that a thing is taken for what it is worth, as in the case of testimony that may be suppressed after more full examination.

Declaration. — The pleading in which a plaintiff explains his claim for relief in a civil action.

Dedicate. — To surrender voluntarily (private property) that it may be applied to public uses.

such Dedit. — In Canadian law, the sum stipulated to be paid as a penalty in case of breach of contract.

De Domo Reparando. — (a) The term applied to a common law writ issued to a houseowner against a neighbor whose building is in danger of falling with damage to the plaintiff’s property; (b) a writ issued against a cotenant to compel him to show cause why he should not share in the expense of repairing property held in common.

Deed. — A document, under seal, made for the purpose of conveying real estate. See Deed.

Deforcement. — In civil law, the withholding of property to which another person holds the rights but of which he cannot gain possession.

Degree. — The term applied to the distinctions made in the culpability of various persons who have violated the criminal law; thus, the active perpetrator is charged with crime in the “first” degree; those who aided or abetted him, in the “second” degree.

De Jure. — A term implying right according to law.

Delegation. — A term applied in civil law to denote that a debtor has freed himself from the responsibility for his debts by offering another person who binds himself to assure their payment.

Delivery. — In civil law, the act of placing a person in legal possession of any property.

Demise. — In civil law, a term used to denote a lease for a number of years.

Depart. — To deviate in one pleading from the defence made in a prior pleading.

De plano. — Used in law to denote that a thing is so manifestly right as to require no argument.

Determinable. — A term used in civil law to denote that a thing is liable to termination by uncertain contingencies.

Detinet. — A common law action of debt in which it is alleged that the defendant held back money that should have been paid to the plaintiff.

Devest. — A term used as a synonym for deprivation of title.

Dictum. — An opinion of a judge, but not the deliberate determination of the court.

Diminution. — Used to denote that an omission has been made in the records of a case sent from a lower to a higher court for review.

Disclaimer. — (a) A refusal to accept a position, as trustee of an estate or executor under a will; (d) a plea by which the defendant abandons all claim upon or interest in the subject at issue; (c) an instrument by which a patentee abandons a part of his claim of invention.

Discontinuance. — A term used to imply that a suit has been terminated through the action of the plaintiff.

Discretion. — A judicial power that is exercised purely upon personal judgment in view of existing circumstances and not upon application of any rules of law.

Dismission. — Rejection of a suit by the court on the ground that it is unworthy of maintenance.

Distrain. — To seize and hold another’s goods in order to apply them to the satisfaction of the distrainor’s claim, or to maintain possession of them until such a claim is settled.

Disturbance. — In common law, the wrongful obstruction of any party in the enjoyment of his personal rights.

Divestiture. — In civil law, the act of abandoning one’s effects.

Doli capax. — A term used in common law to denote that a child is of sufficient age to be able to distinguish the difference between right and wrong.

Dominus. — In civil law, the person who maintains possession of something by right.

Donation. — In civil law, the transference of something from one person to another without consideration.

Dower. — The portion of a husband’s estate which reverts to the wife upon his death.

Duplicity. — Used to define the act of pleading two or more distinct matters together as if they constituted only one.

Duress. — Used to denote the exercise of such restraint as to practically amount to coercion. “Duress of goods” is the forcible seizure of goods without authority to force the claimant into settlement; “duress of imprisonment” implies actual personal restraint; “duress per minas” denotes coercion effected by threats of personal injury to life or limb. In law, no promise or agreement is held to be binding if made under duress.

Elegit. — (a) A judicial writ of execution; (b) a title to land held under such writ.

Elimination. — A term frequently used as a synonym for ejectment.

Encumbrance. — The amount for unpaid services or public charges that rest upon a property to diminish its value even through changes of ownership.

Enjoin. — The act of restraining a person by means of a judicial injunction.

Entireties, Tenancy by. — A tenure created when an estate is divided or conveyed to a man and his wife during coverture.

Escrow. — A writing that has been fully executed but which has then been placed in the hands of a third party, to be held by him until such time as the specified conditions under which the instrument was prepared have been fulfilled.

Esplees. — A term used to denote the products of the land, whether in produce, rents, or otherwise.

Evocation. — In law, the act of taking an action from one court for the purpose of carrying it to a higher court.

Exaction. — An offence committed by officials in authority who exact or take a fee when the law requires that none be paid.

Exception. — (a) A term most frequently used to denote the action in common law practice by which all objections made to the rulings of a court are noted in writing that they may be submitted to a higher court as an explicit reason why an appeal should be granted; (b) a clause in a conveyance exempting some portion of the estate from the sale; (c) a writing employed in a case in equity to indicate the particular portions of an adversary’s pleadings to which objection has been taken.

Exchange. — In civil law, a reciprocal transfer of property in which no financial consideration is offered or required.

Executor de son tort. — One who attempts to settle the affairs of a deceased person without authority.

Ex facie. — A term used to denote what may be assumed from the face of a writing.

Expatriation. — The act of renouncing the country of one’s birth to become a citizen of another country.

Expromissor. — In civil law, one who binds himself to pay the debts of another person.

Extend. — In civil law, to seize lands in satisfaction of a debt.

Extortion. — (a) A gross overcharge which could not be upheld in law; (b) the act of obtaining money from another person when none, or a smaller amount, is due.

Extradotal. — In civil law, that portion of a woman’s property that is exempt from consideration under dower right.

Factum. — The term used to denote the statement of a case to the court.

Fee. — An estate held in trust. When it is vested in the owner and his heirs and assigns forever, it is commonly known as a “fee simple.”

Feigned Issue. — A term used to denote that the issue has been prepared for court by agreement, or by judicial order, rather than by the ordinary procedure.

Fiduciary Capacity. — A term often used to denote that the position occupied by the party referred to was one of trust and confidence, the idea being that violations of such confidence are not covered either by discharge in bankruptcy or by the laws and rulings regarding imprisonment for debt.

Fieri facias. — A civil law writ that may be issued after judgment, empowering the sheriff to levy upon goods or lands to secure the amount due.

Forbearance. — In civil law. the act of restraining the enforcement of one’s legal rights.

Force and Arms. — A term used to denote that the act complained of was done with violence.

Forcible Entry. — The act of taking possession of property by means of threats, or by arms, etc.

Foreign Attachment. — The process of seizing the local property of an absent debtor in order that he must either put in an appearance or allow the claims of the creditor to be satisfied.

Foreign Matter. — Actions that must of necessity be tried in some other county.

Forfeiture. — The act of having one’s property transferred to another as the result of one’s negligence or by reason of the misdeed of another person.

Furniture. — In civil law. personal chattels in use by a family, and, ordinarily, exempt from legal process.

Gage. — A term used to denote the personal property that has been placed in a creditor’s hands by a debtor as security for the payment of his indebtedness.

Gager del ley. — Used synonymously with a “wager of law.”

Garnishee. — The person who takes possession of the money or property of another with the avowed intent to keep it to answer the claim of the creditor, or until the defendant is otherwise discharged.

Gift. — In civil law, a conveyance that is made without consideration, either in blood or money.

Giving Time. — In civil law, an agreement by which all the creditors agree to give a debtor time to pay his debts instead of forcing him to abide by the terms of the first agreement.

Go Without Day. — A term used to denote that a case has been dismissed from court.

Grant. — (a) A generic term applied in civil law to all transfers of real estate; (b) the instrument by which the transfer is made, or the property which is so transferred.

Gross Negligence. — A term used to indicate that the ordinary care which even a thoughtless man might take of his own person or property has in this instance been omitted.

Habeas corpus. — A term used to denote a writ issued to parties suspected of detaining another, and commanding them to produce the body of that person at a certain time and place, there to submit to such judgment as the court may see fit to make in the matter. This habeas corpus action is one of the most famous in law, it having been used so often to protect human rights that it has come to be known as the “Great writ of Liberty.” See Habeas Corpus.

Habitation. — In civil law, the right of an individual to live in a house owned by another person without prejudice to the property.

Habitual Criminals. — Persons who are so well known as malefactors by reason of their criminal past history and associations as to be punishable by penalties of more severity than are ordinarily imposed upon persons who have no such record against them.

Hearsay Evidence. — The term applied to testimony that cannot derive its value in credibility from the witness himself, but must depend largely upon the veracity of another person.

Heritage. — In civil law, every kind of immovable property, whether acquired by purchase, descent, or otherwise.

High Seas. — A term often used in the settlement of questions of jurisdiction, etc. It denotes the uninclosed water of the ocean and all those of the sea-board that may be beyond the boundaries of the low-water mark.

Hold. — Used technically in civil law as a part of the term “To have and to hold,” the clause known as the “tenendum,” by which the grantee’s tenure to the land in question is expressed.

Homologation. — A term used in civil law to denote the approbation of the award and order necessary before execution may take place.

Hypothecation. — A term used in civil law to denote a creditor’s right over a debtor’s property: the power to cause it to be disposed of by sale that he may secure his payment from the proceeds. There are various forms of hypothecation recognized by law: Conventional hypothecation, or those effected by the agreement of parties; general hypothecation, as when a debtor hypothecates his entire estate for the benefit of his creditors; legal hypothecation, those that are not dependent upon a contract or agreement; special hypothecation, or the hypothecation of a special estate; and tacit hypothecation, as when ordered by the court to secure a debtor’s creditors.

Immaterial Averment. — In pleading, a statement of unnecessary particulars sometimes included in connection with, or as description of, what is actually material to the case.

Immoral Consideration. — A term used to define a contract based upon something which is contrary to good morals; such contracts usually being void.

Immovables. — A term used in civil law to denote that kind of property which from its own nature or by its situation cannot move itself or be removed without great difficulty.

Imparlance. — A term denoting the continuance of a cause for a few days to give one of the parties to the issue time to answer the pleadings of his opponent.

Impediments. — In civil law, the legal hindrances in the making of contracts, as minority, lack of reason, coverture, etc.

Imperium. — A term used to define a power that vests only in the executive: The right to call upon the military forces of the State to enforce its statutes.

Impertinent. — A term used to denote that certain matters that have been introduced into a bill, answer, or other proceedings in equity, are not properly before the court.

Improvement. — A term used in civil law to denote the betterment in the condition of a property due to the expenditure of labor and money.

In fraudem legis. — A term used to imply that a thing is “contrary to the law.”

In Full Life. — A term used to indicate that a person is neither physically nor civilly dead.

In loco parentis. — Literally, in place of a parent.

{{sc|In pari causa,— A term employed to denote that two parties are in equal right according to law, in which case, according to usage, the party having possession is regarded as of best right.

In pari delicto. — A term indicating that both parties to an issue are equally at fault, a case in which no relief can be obtained.

In propria persona. — Literally, in his own person.

In solidum in solido. — A term used in the making of a contract, and meaning, “For a whole as a whole.”

In statu quo. — Literally, in the same condition as before.

In toto. — Used legally to imply “in the whole.”

Inalienable. — Designating properties that cannot be transferred from one to another, as the public highways, parks, etc.

Incompatibility. — A term denoting the incapability of two persons to exercise the rights and privileges when together, as in the case of landlord and tenant, husband and wife, etc.

Indirect Evidence. — A term used to denote that kind of evidence that, while it does not establish the fact in question, furnishes a presumptive proof in its favor.

Inducement. — Employed in civil law to denote the consideration, or benefit which was used to induce the promisor to make the contract in question.

Induciae. — Used in civil law to indicate the declaration of a truce in judicial hostilities.

Injuria absque damno. — A term used to imply that the wrong incurred was without damage or loss, in which the action at law cannot be maintained.

Jeopardy. — The condition of a prisoner when a trial jury has been impanelled and sworn to try his case. If he escapes this jeopardy he cannot again be subjected to the same danger, the United States Constitution clearly defining that point that “No person shall be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

Joinder. — (a) In civil law, the merging of several causes of action in a single declaration; (b) in criminal law, the act of joining several cases of the same nature in one indictment; (c) acceptance by both parties to an action of an issue tendered.

Joint Action. — A term used when two or more persons are alike parties to a suit, as two or more plaintiffs against two or more defendants.

Jus abutendi. — A term meaning, literally, the right to abuse, but generally employed to denote that the party in question has every possible right over his property.

Justifying Bail. — A term used to denote that the parties who have been produced as bail have been able to justify themselves in spite of any exceptions taken by the opposition.

Labor a Jury. — A term used to denote that an effort has been made to reach the jury for the purpose of tampering with it, or affecting its decisions.

Laches. — Neglect to perform a certain duty or to protect a claim at the proper time.

Law of Equity. — See Law.

Law of Merchants. — See Law.

Law of Nations. — See Law.

Lese Majesty. — Apparent disrespect for a monarch. In some countries such an offense is treated as treason.

Letters Testamentary. — An instrument in writing, granted by a judge or other official having authority and jurisdiction over the probate of wills, making it known that the will in question has been proved in proper form and that the estate is in order to be administered.

Levitical Degree. — A term used in law to denote the degrees of kindred that are prohibited in the 18th chapter of Leviticus.

Lex loci. — A term used to denote the local law, or, literally, the law of the place.

Liquidated Damages. — Damages, the amount of which have been decided upon by an anticipatory agreement between the parties concerned.

Made Known. — A term used to denote that a writ of scire facias has been duly served upon the defendant.

Mainour. — A term which literally means “found in hand,” and which is used in criminal law to denote that the goods stolen were found with the person who stole them. “To be taken in the mainour,” therefore, is synonymous with being caught in the act.

Maintenance. — A term used in law to denote any officious interference with the course of justice.

Malfeasance. — A term used to denote the unlawful or wrongful conduct of a public official in office.

Malpractice. — A term denoting bad medical practice, whether due to ignorance, carelessness, or criminal intent.

Malum in se. — A term denoting that an act is evil in itself, in counterdistinction to the offenses that, while not naturally evil, have become so because of the fact that they have been specifically prohibited.

Manbote. — The compensation paid to the relatives of a murdered man by the murderer, or on behalf of the latter.

Mandamus. — A writ issued by a superior court by which an inferior court, a corporation, or other body is directed to perform some act therein specified on the ground that it is a part of their office and duty. A writ of mandamus which couples this command with an alternative to the effect that if this act be not done the party commanded to perform it must show cause why this order has not been obeyed, is termed an “alternative mandamus”; a writ in which the command of the superior court is absolute, is termed a “peremptory mandamus.”

Manu forti. — A term used in pleading to denote that the entry was the most forcible that could be made.

Matter in Deed. — A matter that may be proved by deed.

Matter of Fact. — A matter that may be referred to a jury, as its truth is a question that may be determined by the senses, or decided upon evidence.

Matter of Law. — A matter the truth or falsity of which must be decided by established rules of law.

Matter of Record. — Matter that may be proved by the production of an authentic record.

Mercantile Law. — That branch of law in which the rights and duties arising out of mercantile relations are defined.

Metes and Bounds. — A term used to define the boundary lines of lands.

Misfeasance. — The performance of official or legal duty in an improper manner by a public official.

Misjoinder. — A term used in pleading to denote the improper union of causes of action or of persons in a single suit at law.

Moral Certainty. — A term which denotes the degree of certainty by which a jury is justified in determining its verdict.

More or Less. — A term used to convey the impression that the quantity of the matter at issue is uncertain and that neither party shall find cause for complaint in its deficiency or excess.

Mulct. — The fine imposed upon the conviction of an offender for the commission of an offense.

Municipal Law. — See Law.

Mystic Testament. — A term used to define a will under seal.

Natural Law. — See Law, Natural.

Ne baila par. — A plea in detinue, in the making of which the defendant denies that the thing sued for was ever delivered to him.

Never Indebted. — A plea in which the defendant asserts that he is not indebted to the plaintiff for the amount sued for.

New Promise. — A new contract made after the original agreement has become invalid and by the terms of which the signers agree to fulfil the stipulations of the prior contract.

Newly Discovered Evidence. — A term used to denote that the proof of new facts that have been obtained since a verdict was rendered are of sufficient importance to affect the decision of the court.

Nihil dicit. — Literally, he says nothing. A term used to denote that judgment may be taken by default.

Nihil habet. — Literally, he has nothing. A term used in the return made by the sheriff who has been unable to discover the property required under a writ of scire facias, etc.

Nominal Damage. — A term used when a trifling sum has been awarded in a case where a breach of duty, or an infraction of the plaintiff’s rights, has been shown, but by which no serious injury or loss had been sustained.

Nonfeasance. — Refusal or failure by a public official to perform a legal or official duty.

Nul tort. — A plea to a real action in which the defendant enters a denial of any wrong.

Nulla bona. — A term used in a return to a writ of fieri facias denoting that there are no goods upon which a levy may be made.

Optional Writ. — A writ which contains the alternative providing that if a thing is not done cause must be shown as to why it was not done.

Organic Law of the State. — See Law, Constitutional.

Oyer and Terminer. — Although this name was originally applied only to an English court for the trial of indictments, it has since been adopted in some portions of the United States as the title of the higher courts of criminal jurisdiction. See Court.

Parttceps Criminis. — A term used to denote that a party is a partner in the crime alleged.

Pendente Lite. — A term used to denote that a matter is in statu quo pending the action of the court.

Peremptory Challenge. — A privilege permitted in criminal cases when the prisoner’s counsel is granted the right to make a specified number of challenges of jurors without giving his cause.

Perpetuating Testimony. — A term applied to testimony that has been reduced to writing and duly attested according to law that it may be preserved to be read in evidence at some action not yet instituted.

Plaintiff and Defendant. — See Law.

Positive Fraud. — A term used when the deception in question was not only successful but was so clearly intentional as to be beyond the possibility of doubt.

Precarious Right. — A right that the owner has transferred to another person that the latter may enjoy it until it shall please him to revoke it.

Procés Verbal. — In French Canadian law, an act or process of apportioning the expenses for the building and maintenance of public utilities, as bridges.

Quiet Enjoyment. — A term employed in covenants or leases by which it is agreed that the vendee or lessee shall be permitted to peaceably enjoy the premises.

Quo Warranto. — A term derived from the name of a writ issued to compel a person or a number of persons to show by what warrant they have assumed the duties of a public office, trust, or franchise. It is, accordingly, the remedy which must be resorted to to oust usurpers from office.

Rate. — In Great Britain, an amount levied upon property in the nature of a tax for legal purposes.

Real Covenant. — A term applied to the signed and sealed agreement by which two or more persons bind themselves to pass a real thing.

Rebutting Evidence. — The testimony in a trial in which the defendant makes answer to the plaintiff’s surrejoinder.

Recoupment. — The term applied to the right accorded the defendant to claim damage, in the same action, from the plaintiff because of his failure to comply with some cross-obligation or his violation of some duty imposed upon him by the terms of the contract.

Rejoinder. — The term applied to the fourth stage in the pleadings in an action at common law, in which the defendant makes answer to the plaintiff’s replication. A surrejoinder is the next pleading of the plaintiff.

Replevin. — A term applied to a personal action brought to recover possession of goods that have been wrongfully taken or detained, security being given by the complainant to try the right to their ownership by means of a regular suit at law, and to return the goods replevined if such action should be determined in favor of the defendant. A “replevin in the cepit” is an action in which it is claimed that the defendant wrongfully took the goods, while a “replevin in the detinet” is an action claiming that he wrongfully detained them.

Salvage. — See Law, Maritime; Salvage.

Separate Maintenance. — An allowance made by a husband for the support of his wife from whom he has separated.

Specification. — A detailed statement or description, as of a patent.

Stoppage in Transitu. — The resumption by the seller of either the actual or constructive possession of goods that have not been paid for while on their way to the vendee but before the latter has acquired actual possession of a property right in such articles.

Subornation of Perjury. — The term applied to the act by which another person is persuaded to commit the crime of perjury. See Perjury.

Tender. — A term denoting an offer to deliver something in satisfaction of a debt, or to give to the other party the specific thing required by the contract in question.

Transfer. — (a) The act of conveying property, right, or title from one person to another; (b) the removal, as of a cause, from one jurisdiction to another.

True Bill. — When an indictment is found against a party accused of a felony before the grand jury the finding is termed a “true bill.” See Law, Criminal.

Ultimatum. — In international law, a final statement, as of one power to another, before breaking off friendly negotiations.

Under and Subject. — A term used in instruments for the conveyance of land, indicating that the party taking it accepts the transfer subject to the mortgage upon it.

Vadium Mortuum. — Literally, a dead pledge. A term used to denote the security given in the form of a mortgage by which the lender agrees that if the money borrowed is not repaid at the time specified the estate shall pass to the lender.

Vadium vivum. — Literally, a live pledge. A term used to denote a pledge given in the form of a mortgage under which the lender agrees to take the sum borrowed out of the profits of the land.

Without Prejudice. — A term used in cases of overtures and communications between parties to an action at law by which it is specified that should the negotiations fail to result in the adjustment of the controversy nothing that has transpired at such meetings will be taken advantage of at subsequent hearings before the court, but all will be regarded as “without prejudice” to the matter at issue.

Yielding and Paying. — A term used in the writing of a lease that it may constitute a covenant on the part of the lessee to pay the rent stipulated.

List of Legal Terms with current meaning

You may find a Glossary of Legal Terms in this site, and a list of legal terms in the Legal Dictionaries.

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See Also

  • Glossary of Legal Terms
  • List of U.S. legal resources
  • List of America legal online resources
  • Surveys of the Legal Systems
  • General Contract Terms meaning

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