Latin Legal Terms and Expressions (Civil, Common and Ecclesiastical Laws)

Latin legal terms

Latin Legal Terms

Traditionally, legal principles are often expressed using Latin terms or expressions. Many of them have come down to us from Roman antiquity. However, many Latin legal terms and expressions are also newly coined (made).

For example, the ancient Romans knew neither the culpa in contrahendo nor the nulla-poena principles. This is a partial list of these “Latin legal terms”, which are wholly or substantially drawn from Latin.

The list of Latin legal terms refers to those terms that have entered mainly common law. The law of Anglo-Saxon origin detaches itself from the tradition of Justinian law and through it, of Roman law, but men of culture often spoke Latin and therefore many Latin terms became common also in English law and, through it, in American law.

Practically, therefore all over the world, sometimes with different meanings and often with English pronunciations, the following terms are used throughout the legal world.

Law Studies and Branches (Fields of Law)

Civil Law – Latin legal terms

Civil law is a sector of private law which governs the relationship of one individual to another. The function of the civil judge is thus to settle a legal conflict between two parties: the plaintiff and the defendant.

Civil law originating in mainland Europe and adopted in much of the world. The civil law system is intellectualized within the framework of Roman law, and with core principles codified into a referable system, which serves as the primary source of law.

Phrase or TermLiteral translationDefinition and use
accessiosomething addedAccession, i.e. mode of acquisition by creation in which labor and other goods are added to property in such a manner that the identity of the original property is not lost (vs. commixtio, specificatio)
accidentalia negotiibusiness incidentalsExpress contractual terms that are purely voluntary, optional, and not necessitated by the contract’s subject matter. Also called incidentalia (Roman-Dutch law). One of three types of contractual terms, the others being essentialia negotii and naturalia negotii.
ad quantitatemby the quantityitemized, e.g. sale ad quantitatem = item sale (e.g. 100 carp, 10,000 lbs. of sugar, 10 casks of corn) (vs. per aversionem)
aditio hereditatishereditary approachEntering into the inheritance, i.e. vesting of the inheritance in an heir or will beneficiary. See delatio hereditatis.
casus fortuitusfortuitous eventForce majeure arising from a man-made inevitable accident (e.g. riots, strikes, civil war); ex: When H.M.S. Bounty was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, October 29, 2012, casus fortuitus would describe the H.M.S. Bounty being at the wrong place when Hurricane Sandy came up the coast.HMS Bounty Sinks Compare vis maior (see below).
cautio de restituendoguarantee to reinstateSecurity or guarantee that heirs must provide in a case where an absent person’s estate is divided among them (insurance law)
cessioyieldingAssignment, that is, the transfer of rights or benefits.
cedens ‘cedent’ (= assignor)
cessionarius ‘cessionary, cessionee’ (= assignee)
debitor cessus ‘third-party obligor’
collatio bonorumbringing together of goodsHotchpot. Also called collatio inter liberos (Scots law).
commixtiocomminglingConfusion, i.e. acquisition by creation in which fungible solid or liquid goods (and no labor) of different owners intermingle in such a way that the mixture creates a new thing and can no longer be separately identified, it is owned by the owners in co-ownership (vs. accessio, specificatio)
commodatumaccommodationLoan for use, i.e. bailment of movable property that is not perishable or consumable to be returned without payment. Parties:
commodans ‘bailor’
commodatarius ‘bailee’
communio bonorumcommunity of goodsThe aggregate of marital property (or marital estate) under a community property matrimonial regime.
compensatiobalancing of accountsSet-off. Type: compensatio lucri cum damno – set-off of profit and loss
compensatio moraebalance of delayDelay in payment or performance on the part of both the debtor and the creditor.
confusiomelting togetherMerger of counterparty rights in the same person (e.g. debtor-creditor, buyer-seller, landlord-tenant, etc.), thereby extinguishing an obligation or right. Adverb: confusione.
conjunctissimusthe most joinedNext-of-kin. Plural conjunctissimi.
contra bonos moresagainst good moralsContracts so made are generally illegal and unenforceable.
culpaguiltUnintentional negligence (in tort). Degrees:
culpa lata – gross negligence
culpa levis – ordinary negligence
culpa levissima – slight negligence
cum beneficio inventariiunder benefit of inventoryAs in an heir cum beneficio inventarii, who accepts his/her share in a deceased’s estate after having had an appraisal and estate inventory drawn up, thereby separating their share from the whole and limiting their liability.
cum onerewith burdens(Louisiana law) as encumbered, i.e. alienated with the encumbrances running with the land.
curaguardianshipCuratorship, i.e. legal guardianship under which the ward is totally and permanently incapable. Compare tutela. Parties are:
curandus – ward
curator – guardian (see below)
curatorguardianGuardian under a curatorship (cura). Types are:
curator ad litem – guardian ad litem
curator bonis – guardian of the property
curator personae – guardian of the person
damnum emergensemergent lossLoss actually incurred because of a contractual breach
damnum et interessedamage and interestsTortious damages, damages in tort
data certacertain dateFixed effective date of a contract, i.e. one that cannot be ante- or post-dated
datio in solutumgiving in paymentSpecies of accord and satisfaction by transfer or assignment of property in lieu of money; kind of in-kind payment, as opposed to a money payment
de cujus(s)he for whom…The deceased, decedent. Short for de cujus successione agitur.
delatio hereditatishereditary transferralFalling open of succession. See aditio hereditatis.
domicilium citandi et executandidomicile for summoning and carrying outAddress for service or notices (e.g. for contractual purposes).
dominium plurium in solidumplural, joint and several ownershipJoint tenancy.
dominium pro parte pro indivisounpartitioned and undivided ownershipTenancy in common. Also known as communio pro partibus indivisis.
dominus litismaster of the caseLitigant, the client in a lawsuit, as opposed to the lawyer.
error in iudicandoerror in judgment (in court)Error of fact and reasoning (vs. error in procedendo)
error in procedendoprocedural error (in court)Error on a point of law or procedure (vs. error in iudicando)
essentalia negotiibusiness essentialsExpress or implied contractual terms that are required either by law or by the contract’s subject matter. One of three types of contractual terms, the others being accidentialia negotii and naturalia negotii.
ex intervalo temporisNot all at once, in parts (vs. uno contextu).
ex propriis sensibuswith one’s own sensesUsed for firsthand testimony, e.g. testimony ex propriis sensibus (vs. per relationem).
falsus procuratorfake agentAgent de son tort, officious agent
fideicommissumentrusting to (a person’s) good faith.Testamentary trust; a form of substitution (called ‘fideicommissary substitution’) in which a will beneficiary is instructed in the will to transfer the testamentary gift in whole or part to a third party. A fideicommissum is created either expressly in a will or impliedly through a si sine liberis decesserit clause or through a prohibition against alienation in the will.
fideicommittens ‘grantor’ (= testator)
fiduciarius ‘fiduciary’ (= trustee)
fideicommissarius ‘fideicommissary’ (= beneficiary)
fideiussioguarantee, suretySuretyship.
fructus industrialesindustrial fruitsEmblements; in property law, a co-owner profiting from her or his fructus industriales is solely responsible for any losses that my occur. (vs. fructus naturales, see below).
fructus naturalesnatural fruitsVegetation naturally growing from old roots (as pasturage) or from trees (as timber or fruit) (vs. fructus industriales, see above).
hereditas iacenslying inheritanceEstate of inheritance before vesting in heirs
heresHeir. Plural heredes. Types:
heredes proximi – closest heirs
sui heredes necessarii – forced heirs (singular suus heres necessarius)
in casuin the caseIn the instant case; used when referring to the matter before the court in a case being discussed
in solidumfor the wholeJointly and severally; short for singuli et in solidum. Where a group of persons share liability for a debt, such as co-signers to a loan, the debtor can sue a single party in solidum, that is jointly and severally, to recover the entire amount owed.
inaedificatiobuildingAttachment of movables to land, accession by building
incapaxincapable(Scots law) person not having capacity (mental, legal, or otherwise).
indignus (heres)unworthy heirUnworthy beneficiary or heir, who is precluded from inheriting because his conduct makes him unworthy, in a legal sense, to take in the deceased’s estate.
infansinfant(Roman-Dutch law) child of 7 years or younger and who therefore has very limited legal capacity. Plural infantes.
invecta et illatabrought in and carried outTenant’s things brought into the leased premises for his/her temporary use
iudex ad quemAppellate court or court of last resort (vs. iudex a quo)
iudex a quoLower court from which an appeal originates; originating court (vs. iudex ad quem)
ius accrescendiright of accrual(Civil law) Accretion, i.e. right of a will beneficiary to succeed proportionately to a testamentary gift that another beneficiary in the same will cannot or does not want to take.
ius communecommon lawNot actually referring to common law; this term refers to common doctrine and principles of civil law that underlie all aspects of civilian legal systems and that formed the basis of medieval Roman law.
ius persequendiright of followingRight of pursuit, i.e. the creditor’s right to pursue a debt that runs with the land into the hands of a bona fide purchaser
ius praeferendiright of preferringPriority right or preferential right, i.e. a creditor’s right to rank higher relative to another
ius quaesitum tertioright to third-party reliefRight of a third-party beneficiary to sue in order to enforce a third-party contract, i.e. the opposite of privity of contract.
ius retentionisright of retainingLien (possessory)
laesio enormisunusual injuryLesion beyond moiety, i.e. excessive loss or injury used as grounds for setting aside a contract; sold for less than half its value or purchased for more than double
lex commissoriacancelling lawForfeiture clause for nonperformance of a contract, especially (1) a provision that a pledge shall be forfeited if a loan is defaulted, or (2) a condition that money paid on a contract of sale shall be forfeited and the sale rescinded if outstanding payments are defaulted. Also known as a pactum commissorium.
liberandi causaliberating causeAs in ‘prescription liberandi causa’, i.e. liberative prescription (aka extinctive prescription), which is the civilian equivalent of a statutory limitation period.
locatio conductioleasing (and) hiringHire or rental. Types:
locatio conductio operarum – employment, indentured servitude, and master/slave relationship
locatio conductio operis – hire of service provider or independent contractor
locatio conductio rei – rental or letting of property
lucrum cessansceasing profitProspective damages or loss of profits that would, because of the contractual breach, have been made in the future
mandatummandateBilateral agreement for direct representation between a principal and agent. Compare procuratio. Parties:
mandatarius ‘agent’
mandator ‘principal’
monstrummonsterChild born with severe deformities. Plural monstra.
mora accipiendidelay of the one receivingDelay in payment or performance in the part of the creditor or obligor. Also known as mora creditoris.
mora solvendidelay of the one payingDelay in payment or performance in the part of the debtor or the obligee. Also known as mora debitoris. 2 forms:
mora solvendi ex re – delay in giving or delivering a thing;
mora solvendi ex personae – delay in obligations to do or perform personal service.
naturalia negotiibusiness naturalsExpress or implied contractual terms that go to the root of a contract’s subject matter. One of three types of contractual terms, the others being accidentialia negotii and essentalia negotii.
nec vi, nec clam, nec precarioWithout force, without secrecy, without permissionPeacefully, openly, and with the intention to acquire ownership; applies to acquisitive prescription
negotiorum gestiomanagement of affairsQuasi-contractual obligation arising from good works affecting other people, obliging the benefited party (dominus negotii) to reimburse the gestor for the cost that was used in doing good works.
non bis in idemnot twice in the sameProhibition against double jeopardy. A legal action cannot be brought twice for the same act or offense.
novum iudiciumnew judgmentAppeal by way of hearing de novo, i.e. the case is retried with no restrictions of scope: errors of law are reviewed and new findings of fact are made. (vs. revisio prioris instantiae)
nudum praeceptumnaked preceptIf a testator places a prohibition on a testamentary gift but fails to say what should happen to the gift if the prohibition is contravened, the prohibition is said to be ‘nude’, i.e. a nudum praeceptum. In other words, the prohibition is of no effect, and the beneficiary will take the gift free from any restrictions.
pactum de contrahendoagreement to contractPrior contract aimed at concluding another contract, known as the parent or principal contract. Includes binders (in real estate sales), such as a purchase offer or an option to sell.
pactum de non cedendoagreement to not yieldAnti-assignment clause
pactum de non petendo (in anticipando)agreement to not sueAgreement in which one party agrees not to sue the other.
pactum de retrovendendoagreement to sell backContract of sale with right of repurchase
pactum successoriuminheritance agreementBilateral contract concerning succession, usually made between a potential testator (future decedent) and his/her heir. Plural pacta successoria. The most common forms are:
pactum renunciativum (aka pactum de non succedendo) – disclaimer of interest
pactum acquisitivum (aka pactum conservandae successionis) – deed of variation
pactum de hereditate tertii viventis – family settlement agreement.
pars dominiiownership partThe three major rights in the bundle of rights making up ownership, i.e. usus (aka ius utendi), fructus (aka ius fruendi), and abusus (aka ius abutendi).
paterfamiliasfather of the familyThe head of household, for purposes of considering the rights and responsibilities thereof. (Civil law) bonus paterfamilias: a standard of care equivalent to the common law ordinary reasonable man. Other degrees of care are:
diligens paterfamilias – higher standard of care, greater diligence;
diligentissimus paterfamilias – highest standard of care, utmost diligence.
penitus extraneusoutside penitentIncidental beneficiary or any outside party to a third-party contract (see stipulatio alteri). Plural penitus extranei.
per aversionemby turning away(1) description, whereby the surrounding property is used to provide the legal description of the boundaries of the property; (2) sale per aversionem = bulk sale (a flock of sheep for $100 – the number of sheep are uncounted) (vs. ad quantitatum)
per relationemby relationHearsay; used for secondhand, indirect evidence, e.g. testimony per relationem ‘hearsay testimony’ (vs. ex propriis sensibus). Also called de auditu.
pignuspledgePledge, i.e. a possessory security interest
pleno iureby full rightSelf-executing, without need of a court order or judicial proceedings; with full right or authority. Ex: null pleno iure.
plus quam tolerabilemore than tolerableExcessive, beyond tolerable; in reference to a nuisance or some other violation of neighbor law.
praediumestateLanded property, tenement of land, especially with respect to an easement (servitude). 2 types:
praedium dominans – dominant estate (aka dominant tenement)
praedium serviens – servient estate (aka servient tenement)
praeemptioprevious purchaseRight of first refusal
praesumptiopresumptionLegal presumption. Types:
praesumptio iuris tantum – rebuttable presumption
praesumptio iuris et de iure – irrebuttable or conclusive presumption
praesumptio innocentiaePresumption of innocence
praesumptio veritatis et solemnitatispresumption of truth and solemnityPresumption of regularity, which attaches to public instruments admissible to prove the truth of their contents.
pretium pro doloribusprice for painSolatium.
prior tempore potior iureearlier in time, stronger in law(Scots law, civil law), usually translated as “prior in time, superior in right”, the principle that someone who registers (a security interest) earlier therefore ranks higher than other creditors.
probatioEvidence (admissible in a court of law), especially documentary evidence. Types:
adminiculum (probationis) ‘adminicular evidence’ – evidence adduced in aid or support of other evidence, which without it is imperfect
semiplena probatio, probatio semiplena ‘half proof, imperfect proof’ – executed in presence of 1 or no witnesses; includes private instruments
plena probatio, probatio plena ‘full proof, perfect proof’ – executed in presence of 2 witnesses; includes public instruments
probatio probatissima – the highest evidence, referring to testimony under oath (received into common law but not civil law)
procuratiomanagementPower of attorney, i.e. a unilateral grant of indirect representation by a principal to an attorney-in-fact. Compare mandatum.
procuratorAgent, attorney-in-fact. Types:
procurator ad causas – attorney employed to assist a litigant in the conduct of his lawsuit
procurator ad negotia – attorney assisting his client in transacting other business
procurator in rem suam – holder of an irrevocable power of attorney
quaestus liberalesLiberal profession
restitutio in integrumtotal reinstatement(1) Restoration of something, such as a building or damaged property, to its original condition.
(2) In contract law, when considering breach of contract and remedies, to restore a party to an original position.
revisio prioris instantiaereview of the court belowAppeal by way of re-hearing or pure appeal (aka appeal stricto sensu); the scope is limited to errors of law and no new factual findings are possible; the case is traditionally remitted to the originating court below for re-judgment. (vs. novum iudicium)
salva rei substantiathe thing’s substance intactLimitation on how a fiduciary can use the fideicommissary assets; ultimately they must maintain their essential quality until transferred to the fideicommissary. Plural salva rerum substantia. See fideicommissum.
servitusservitude, subjugationServitude, i.e. an easement. Plural servitutes.
servitus personarum ‘personal servitude’ (= easement in gross)
servitus praediorum ‘praedial servitude’ (= easement appertunant)
si sine liberis decesseritif (he) should depart without childrenCertain type of clause in a will creating a fideicommissum by imposing a condition on the will beneficiary that if (s)he dies childless, the testamentary gift will transfer to a third party. Ex: If A dies childless after my death, the farm must go to B. See fideicommissum.
solutio indebitiperformance of something not dueUndue performance or payment, obliging the enrichee (accipiens) to return the undue payment or compensate the impoverishee (solvens) for the undue performance
specificatioSpecification, i.e. mode of acquisition by creation wherein something new is made by adding labor (manufacturing) to property, and the non-reducible parts used for its fabrication lose their identity (vs. accessio, commixtio). The new thing is called nova species.
stante matrimonioDuring the marriage
stipulatio alterianother’s (contractual) provisionThird-party contract. Also known as pactum in favorem tertii (Scots law). The parties are:
promittens ‘promisor’
stipulans ‘promisee’
alteri ‘third-party beneficiary’
superficiessurfaceSurface right, surface estate. Parties:
dominus soli ‘subsurface owner, mineral owner’
superficiarius ‘surface owner’
tantum et talethus and such(Scots law) “as is”, to disclaim implied warranties, as in to purchase or convey something tantum et tale.
transactiotransactionOut-of-court settlement
tutelaguardianshipTutorship, i.e. legal guardianship under which the ward is only partially or temporarily incapable. Compare cura. Parties are
pupillus – ward
tutor – guardian
uno contextusingle joining togetherContemporaneously; when the phases of something are done without interruption or any intervening action; specifically, executed in one single execution ceremony (vs. ex intervalo temporis)
usucapioseizure of useAcquisitive prescription, i.e. the civilian version of adverse possession. Also called ‘prescription acquirendi causa’.
usufructususe-fruitCivilian equivalent of a life estate. Parties:
nudus dominus ‘bare owner’ (= remainderman, reversioner)
usufructuarius ‘usufructuary’ (= life tenant)
via executoriaexecutorial wayNon-judicial foreclosure under a power of sale clause in a mortgage; more broadly, any non-judicial remedy empowered under a contractual clause or some other instrument
via iureway of lawUsing the courts and the justice system (opposite of self-help)
vinculum iuristhe chain of the lawA legal bond, especially the bond tying obligor and obligee in a legal obligation
vis maiorsuperior forceForce majeure arising from an act of God, i.e. events over which no humans have control, and so cannot be held responsible. Compare casus fortuitus (see above).
vitium in contrahendovice in contractingVitiating factor in the formation of a contract, e.g. mistake, misrepresentation, and duress.
voluntatis declaratioDeclaration of will

Common Law – Latin legal terms

The common law is a legal system whose rules are mainly enacted by the courts as individual decisions are made. Case law is thus the main source of law and the rule of precedent obliges judges to follow decisions previously taken by the courts. Common law systems, however, leave room for many laws.

Historically, the common law is a system derived from English law. It was thus established in many former British colonies where it has endured, notably in the Comoros, Ireland, Hong Kong, Canada (except Quebec, which uses mixed law), the United States (except Louisiana, California (original) and Puerto Rico, where mixed systems are used) and generally in Commonwealth countries.

Common law is opposed to the civil law tradition, where the main source of law is in legal codes.

Term or phraseLiteral translationDefinition and use
a fortiorifrom strongerAn a fortiori argument is an “argument from a stronger reason”, meaning that, because one fact is true, a second (related and included) fact must also be true.
a mensa et thorofrom table and bedDivorce a mensa et thoro indicates legal separation without legal divorce.
a posteriorifrom laterAn argument derived after an event, having the knowledge about the event. Inductive reasoning from observations and experiments.
a priorifrom earlierAn argument derived before an event, without needing to have the knowledge about the event. Deductive reasoning from general principles.
a quofrom whichRegarding a court below in an appeal, either a court of first instance or an appellate court, known as the court a quo.
ab extrafrom outsideConcerning a case, a person may have received some funding from a 3rd party. This funding may have been considered ab extra.
ab initiofrom the beginning“Commonly used referring to the time a contract, statute, marriage, or deed become legal. e.g. The couple was covered ab initio by her health policy.”
absque hocwithout this“Presenting the negative portion of a plea when pleading at common by way a special traverse”.
actus reusguilty actPart of what proves criminal liability (with mens rea).
ad coelumto the skyAbbreviated from Cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad infernos which translates to “[for] whoever owns [the] soil, [it] is his all the way [up] to Heaven and [down] to Hell.” The principle that the owner of a parcel of land also owns the air above and the ground below the parcel.
ad colligenda bonato collect the goods
ad hocfor thisGenerally signifies a solution designed for a specific problem or task, non-generalizable, and not intended to be able to be adapted to other purposes.
ad hominemat the personAttacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.
ad idemto the same thingIn agreement.
ad infinitumto infinityTo continue forever.
ad litemfor the caseDescribes those designated to represent parties deemed incapable of representing themselves, such as a child or incapacitated adult.
ad quod damnumaccording to the harmUsed in tort law. Implies that the reward or penalty ought to correspond to the damage suffered or inflicted.
ad valoremaccording to value
adjournment sine dieadjournment without a dayWhen an assembly adjourns without setting a date for its next meeting.
affidavithe has swornA formal statement of fact.
alter egoanother IA second identity living within a person.
amicus curiaefriend of the courtA person who offers information to a court regarding a case before it.
animus contrahendicontractual intentIntention to contract.
animus manendiintention to remainThe subjective intent to remain indefinitely in a place so as to establish it as one’s permanent residence. Along with actual residence, this is used to establish domicile. Also called animus remanendi. See diversity of citizenship.
animus nocendiintention to harmThe subjective state of mind of the author of a crime, with reference to the exact knowledge of illegal content of his behaviour, and of its possible consequences.
animus possidendiintention to possess“In order to claim possessory rights, an individual must establish physical control of the res and the intention to possess (i.e. animus possidendi)”
animus revertendiintention to return“Wild animals, such as bees and homing pigeons, that by habit go ‘home’ to their possessor. Used when discussing ferae naturae.”
antebefore“An antenuptial agreement is a contract between two people that is executed before marriage.”
(in) arguendofor the sake of argument
bona fidein good faithImplies sincere good intention regardless of outcome.
bona vacantiaownerless goods
Cadit quaestiothe question fallsIndicates that a settlement to a dispute or issue has been reached, and the issue is now resolved.
Casus bellicase of warThe justification for acts of war.
CaveatMay he bewareWhen used by itself, refers to a qualification, or warning.
Caveat emptorLet the buyer bewareIn addition to the general warning, also refers to a legal doctrine wherein a buyer could not get relief from a seller for defects present on property which rendered it unfit for use.
Certiorarito be apprisedA type of writ seeking judicial review.
Cessante ratione legis cessat ipsa lexwhen the reason for a law ceases, so does the law itselfHerbert Broom′s text of 1858 on legal maxims lists the phrase under the heading ″Rules of logic″, stating: Reason is the soul of the law, and when the reason of any particular law ceases, so does the law itself.
Ceteris paribuswith other things the sameMore commonly rendered in English as “All other things being equal.”
compos mentishaving command of mindOf sound mind. Also used in the negative “Non compos mentis”, meaning “Not of sound mind”.
condicio sine qua nonA condition without which it could not beAn indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient.
consensus ad idemagreement to the sameMeeting of the minds, mutual assent, or concurrence of wills. Parties must be of one mind and their promises must relate to the same subject or object. Also consensus in idem.
contraagainstUsed in case citations to indicate that the cited source directly contradicts the point being made.
contra legemagainst the lawUsed when a court or tribunal hands down a decision that is contrary to the laws of the governing state.
contradictio in adjectocontradiction in itselfA contradiction between parts of an argument.
contra proferentemagainst the one bringing forthUsed in contract law to stipulate that an ambiguous term in a contract shall be interpreted against the interests of the party that insisted upon the term’s inclusion. Prevents the intentional additions of ambiguous terminology from being exploited by the party who insisted on its inclusion.
coram non judicebefore one who is not a judgeRefers to a legal proceeding without a judge, or with a judge who does not have proper jurisdiction.
corpus delictibody of the crimeA person cannot be convicted of a crime, unless it can be proven that the crime was even committed.
corpus jurisbody of lawThe complete collection of laws of a particular jurisdiction or court.
corpus juris civilisbody of civil lawThe complete collection of civil laws of a particular jurisdiction or court. Also sometimes used to refer to the Code of Justinian.
corpus juris gentiumbody of the law of nationsThe complete collection of international law.
corpus juris secundumAn encyclopedia of US law drawn from US Federal and State court decisions.
crimen falsicrime of falsifyingForgery.
cui bonoas a benefit to whom?Suggests that the perpetrator(s) of a crime can often be found by investigating those who would have benefited financially from the crime, even if it is not immediately obvious.
curia advisari vultthe court wishes to considerSignifies the intent of a court to consider the points of law argued during advocacy, prior to judgement.
de bonis asportatiscarrying goods awaySpecifies that larceny was taking place in addition to any other crime named. E.g. “trespass de bonis asportatis”.
debellatiowarring downComplete annihilation of a warring party, bringing about the end of the conflict.
de bonis non administratisof goods not administeredAssets of an estate remaining after the death (or removal) of the designated estate administrator. An “administrator de bonis non administratis” will then be appointed to dispose of these goods.
de die in diemfrom day to dayGenerally refers to a type of labor in which the worker is paid fully at the completion of each day’s work.
de factoin factLiterally “from fact”; often used to mean something that is true in practice, but has not been officially instituted or endorsed. “For all intents and purposes”. Cf. de jure.
de futuroconcerning the futureAt a future date.
de integroconcerning the wholeOften used to mean “start it all over”, in the context of “repeat de integro”.
de jureaccording to lawLiterally “from law”; something that is established in law, whether or not it is true in general practice. Cf. de facto.
de lege ferendaof the law as it should beUsed in the context of “how the law should be”, such as for proposed legislation.
de lege lataof the law as it isConcerning the law as it exists, without consideration of how things should be.
de minimisabout the smallest thingsVarious legal areas concerning small amounts or small degrees.
de mortuis nil nisi bonumOf the dead, [speak] nothing unless goodSocial convention that it is inappropriate to speak ill of the recently deceased, even if they were an enemy.
de novoanewOften used in the context of “trial de novo” – a new trial ordered when the previous one failed to reach a conclusion.
deorum injuriae diis curaeThe gods take care of injuries to the godsBlasphemy is a crime against the State, rather than against God.
dictum(thing) saidA statement given some weight or consideration due to the respect given the person making it.
doli incapaxincapable of guiltPresumption that young children or persons with diminished mental capacity cannot form the intent to commit a crime.
dolus specialisSpecific deceitHeavily used in the context of genocide in international law.
domitae naturaetame by natureTame or domesticated animal. Also called mansuetae naturae. Opposite of ferae naturae (below)
donatio mortis causadeathbed giftGift causa mortis; “The donor, contemplating imminent death, declares words of present gifting and delivers the gift to the donee or someone who clearly takes possession on behalf of the donee. The gift becomes effective at death but remains revocable until that time.”
dramatis personaepersons of the drama or the masks of the dramaThis contains the names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone relevant to the case. This includes the judge, clerk, court reporter, opposing lawyer, client, and witnesses.
duces tecumbring with youA “subpoena duces tecum” is a summons to produce physical evidence for a trial.
ejusdem generisof the same classKnown as a “canon of construction”, it states that when a limited list of specific things also includes a more general class, that the scope of that more general class shall be limited to other items more like the specific items in the list.
eo nomineby that name
erga omnestowards allRefers to rights or obligations that are owed towards all.
erratumhaving been made in error
et al.and othersAbbreviation of et alii, meaning “and others”.
et ceteraand other thingsGenerally used in the sense of “and so forth”.
et seq.and the following thingsAbbreviation of et sequens, meaning “and the following ones”. Used in citations to indicate that the cited portion extends to the pages following the cited page.
et uxorand wifeUsually used instead of naming a man’s wife as a party in a case.
et virand husbandUsually used instead of naming a woman’s husband as a party in a case.
ex aequo et bonoof equity and [the] goodUsually defined as “what is right and good.” Used to describe the power of a judge or arbiter to consider only what is fair and good for the specific case, and not necessarily what the law may require. In courts, usually only done if all parties agree.
ex anteof beforeEssentially meaning “before the event”, usually used when forecasting future events.
ex cathedrafrom the chairWhere chair refers to authority or position. Authority derived from one’s position.
ex concessisfrom what has been conceded alreadyAlso known as “argument from commitment”, a type of valid ad hominem argument.
ex delictofrom a transgressionThe consequence of a crime or tort.
ex demissionefrom a transgressionpart of the title of the old action of ejectment
Jones v. Doe ex dem. Smith
ex facieon the faceIf a contract is blatantly and obviously incorrect or illegal, it can be considered void ex facie without any further analysis or arguments.
ex fida bonagood business norms
ex gratiaby favorSomething done voluntarily and with no expectation of a legal liability arising therefrom.
ex officiofrom the officeSomething done or realized by the fact of holding an office or position.
ex partefrom [for] one partyA decision reached, or case brought, by or for one party without the other party being present.
ex postfrom afterBased on knowledge of the past.
ex post factofrom a thing done afterwardCommonly said as “after the fact.”
ex post facto lawA retroactive law. E.g. a law that makes illegal an act that was not illegal when it was done.
ex proprio motuby [one’s] own motionCommonly spoken as “by one’s own accord.”
ex rel[arising] out of the narration [of the relator]Abbreviation of ex relatione. Used when the government brings a case that arises from the information conveyed to it by a third party (“relator”).
exempli gratiafor the sake of exampleUsually abbreviated “e.g.”.
ex tuncfrom thenTerm used in contract law to specify terms that are voided or confirmed in effect from the execution of the contract. Cf. ex nunc.
ex nuncfrom now onTerm used in contract law to specify terms that are voided or confirmed in effect only in the future and not prior to the contract, or its adjudication. Cf. ex tunc.
extantexistingRefers to things that are currently existing at a given point, rather than things that are no longer so.
facio ut faciasI do, that you may doA type of contract wherein one party agrees to do work for the other, in order that the second party can then perform some work for the first in exchange.
factumdeed1. an assured statement made; 2. completion of a will and all its parts to make it valid and legal; 3). book of facts and law presented in a Canadian court.
favor contractusfavor of the contractA concept in treaty law that prefers the maintaining of a contract over letting it expire for purely procedural reasons.
felo de sefelon of himselfA suicide. This archaic term stems from English common law, where suicide was legally a felony, thus a person who committed suicide was treated as a felon for purposes of estate disposal.
ferae naturaewild animals by natureWild animals residing on unowned property do not belong to any party in a dispute on the land. Opposite of domitae naturae (above).
fiatLet it be done.A warrant issued by a judge for some legal proceedings.
fieri faciasMay you cause to be done.A writ ordering the local law enforcement to ensure that damages awarded by the court are properly recovered. A writ of execution.
fortis attachiamentum, validior praesumptionemstrong attachment, the stronger presumptionWhen determining whether a chattel is a fixture: “size doesn’t matter, how much or degree chattel is attached to ‘land’ and to ‘what’ “
forum non conveniensdisagreeable forumA concept wherein a court refuses to hear a particular matter, citing a more appropriate forum for the issue to be decided.
fumus boni iurissmoke of a good rightRefers to having a sufficient legal basis to bring legal action.
functus officiohaving performed his officeA person, court, statute, or legal document that has no legal authority, because its original legal purpose has been fulfilled.
gravamenthings weighing downThe basic element or complaint of a lawsuit.
guardian ad litemguardian for the caseAn independent party appointed in family law disputes to represent parties that cannot represent themselves, such as minors, developmentally disabled, or elderly.
habeas corpusMay you have the body.A writ used to challenge the legality of detention. Orders the detaining party to “have the (living) body” of the detained brought before the court where the detention will be investigated.
hostis humani generisenemy of the human raceA party considered to be the enemy of all nations, such as maritime pirates.
imprimaturLet it be printed.An authorization for a document to be printed. Used in the context of approval by a religious body or other censoring authority.
in absentiain absenceA legal proceeding conducted without the presence of one party is said to be conducted in absentia, e.g., trial in absentia or being sentenced in absentia.
in articulo mortisat the moment of deathOften used in probate law, as well as for testimony in the sense of a dying declaration.
in camerain the chamberConducted in private, or in secret. The opposite of in open court.
in curiain courtConducted in open court. The opposite of in camera.
in essein existenceActually existing in reality. Opposite of in posse.
in extensoin the extendedIn extended form, or at full length. Often used to refer to publication of documents, where it means the full unabridged document is published.
in extremisin the extremeIn extreme circumstances. Often used to refer to “at the point of death.”
in flagrante delictoin blazing offenseCaught in the actual act of committing a crime. Often used as a euphemism for a couple caught in the act of sexual intercourse, though it technically refers to being “caught in the act” of any misdeed.
in forma pauperisin the manner of a pauperSomeone unable to afford the costs associated with a legal proceeding. As this will not be a barrier to seeking justice, such persons are given in forma pauperis status (usually abbreviated IFP), wherein most costs are waived or substantially reduced.
in futuroin the futureRefers to things to come, or things that may occur later but are not so now. As in in futuro debts, i.e. debts which become due and payable in the future.
in haec verbain these wordsUsed when including text in a complaint verbatim, where its appearance in that form is germane to the case, or is required to be included.
in limineat the thresholdA motion to a judge in a case that is heard and considered outside the presence of the jury.
in loco parentisin the place of a parentUsed to refer to a person or entity assuming the normal parental responsibilities for a minor. This can be used in transfers of legal guardianship, or in the case of schools or other institutions that act in the place of the parents on a day-to-day basis.
in mitiusin the milderA type of retroactive law that decriminalizes offenses committed in the past. Also known as an amnesty law.
in omnibusin allUsed to mean “in every respect.” Something applying to every aspect of a situation.
in pari delictoin equal offenseUsed when both parties to a case are equally at fault.
in pari materiain the same matterRefers to a situation where a law or statute may be ambiguous, and similar laws applying to the matter are used to interpret the vague one.
in personamin personUsed in the context of “directed at this particular person”, refers to a judgement or subpoena directed at a specific named individual. Cf. in rem.
in plenoin full
in prope personaon one’s own personOne who represents themselves in court without the [official] assistance of an attorney.
in propria personain one’s own proper personAlternate form of in prope persona. One who represents themselves in court without the [official] assistance of an attorney.
in rein the matter [of]Used in the title of a decision or comment to identify the matter they are related to; usually used for a case where the proceeding is in rem or quasi in rem and not in personam (e.g. probate or bankrupt estate, guardianship, application for laying out a public highway) and occasionally for an ex parte proceeding (e.g. application for a writ of habeas corpus).
in remabout a thingUsed in the context of a case against property, as opposed to a particular person. See also in rem jurisdiction. Cf. in personam.
in situin positionOften used in the context of decisions or rulings about a property or thing “left in place” after the case as it was before.
in terroremin order to frightenA warning or threat to sue, made in the hopes of convincing the other party to take action to avoid a lawsuit.
in terrorem clauseclause “in order to frighten”A clause in a will that threatens any party who contests the will with being disinherited. Also called a no-contest clause.
in totoin total
indiciaindicationsOften used in copyright notices. Refers to distinctive markings that identify a piece of intellectual property.
infrabelow or under
iniuria sine damnoinjury without financial or property lossIt was stated in Ashby v. White that the law makes a presumption of damage in the absence of actual perceptible damage or financial loss and that the infringement of a right was enough for iniuria sine damno to be actionable.[7]
innuendoby noddingAn intimation about someone or something, made indirectly or vaguely suggesting the thing being implied. Often used when the implied thing is negative or derogatory.
inter aliaamong othersUsed to indicate an item cited has been pulled from a larger or more complete list.
inter rusticosamong rusticsRefers to contract, debts, or other agreements made between parties who are not legal professionals.
inter seamongst themselvesRefers to obligations between members of the same group or party, differentiated from the whole party’s obligations to another party.
inter vivosbetween the livingRefers to a gift or other non-sale transfer between living parties. This is in contrast to a will, where the transfer takes effect upon one party’s death.
intra fauces terraewithin the jaws of the landThis term refers to a nation’s territorial waters.
intra legemwithin the lawUsed in various contexts to refer to the legal foundation for a thing.
intra vireswithin the powersSomething done which requires legal authority, and the act is performed accordingly. Cf. ultra vires.
ipse dixitHe himself said it.An assertion given undue weight solely by virtue of the person making the assertion.
ipsissima verbathe very wordsReferring to a document or ruling that is being quoted by another.
ipso factoby the fact itselfUsed in the context that one event is a direct and immediate consequence of another. “In and of itself.”
ipso jurethe law itselfBy operation of law.
jurat(He) swearsAppears at the end of an affidavit, where the party making the affirmation signs the oath, and the information on whom the oath was sworn before is placed.
juslaw, rightEssentially: law.
jus accrescendiright of survivorshipRight of survivorship: In property law, on the death of one joint tenant, that tenant’s interest passes automatically to the surviving tenant(s) to hold jointly until the estate is held by a sole tenant. The only way to defeat the right of survivorship is to sever the joint tenancy during the lifetime of the parties, the right of survivorship takes priority over a will or interstate accession rules.[4]
jus ad bellumlaws to warRefers to legalities considered before entering into a war, to ensure it is legal to go to war initially. Not to be confused with ius in bello (q.v.), the “laws of war” concerning how war is carried out.
jus civilecivil lawA codified set of laws concerning citizenry, and how the laws apply to them.
jus cogenscompelling lawInternationally agreed laws that bear no deviation, and do not require treaties to be in effect. An example is law prohibiting genocide.
jus gentiumlaw of nationsCustomary law followed by all nations. Nations being at peace with one another, without having to have an actual peace treaty in force, would be an example of this concept.
jus in bellolaw in warLaws governing the conduct of parties in war.
jus inter genteslaw between the peoplesLaws governing treaties and international agreements.
jus naturalenatural lawLaws common to all people, that the average person would find reasonable, regardless of their nationality.
jus primae noctisright of the first nightSupposed right of the lord of an estate to take the virginity of women in his estate on their wedding night.
jus sanguinisright of bloodSocial law concept wherein citizenship of a nation is determined by having one or both parents being citizens.
jus soliright of soilSocial law concept wherein citizenship of a nation is determined by place of birth.
jus tertiilaw of the thirdArguments made by a third party in disputes over possession, the intent of which is to question one of the principal parties’ claims of ownership or rights to ownership.
lacunaevoid, gapA situation arising that is not covered by any law, especially when related situations are covered by the law or where the situation appears to fall “between” multiple laws. Generally used in International Law, which is less comprehensive than most domestic legal systems.
lex communiscommon lawAlternate form of jus commune. Refers to common facets of civil law that underlie all aspects of the law.
lex forithe law of the country in which an action is brought out
lex latathe law borneThe law as it has been enacted.
lex locithe law of the placeThe law of the country, state, or locality where the matter under litigation took place. Normally it is used in contract law, to determine which laws govern the contract.
lex scriptawritten lawLaw that specifically codifies something, as opposed to common law or customary law.
liberum vetofree vetoAn aspect of a unanimous voting system, whereby any member can end discussion on a proposed law.
lingua francathe Frankish languageA language common to an area that is spoken by all, even if not their mother tongue. Term derives from the name given to a common language used by traders in the Mediterranean basin dating from the Middle Ages.
lis alibi pendenslawsuit elsewhere pendingRefers to requesting a legal dispute be heard that is also being heard by another court. To avoid possibly contradictory judgements, this request will not be granted.
lis pendenssuit pendingOften used in the context of public announcements of legal proceedings to come. Compare pendente lite (below).
locus delictiplace of the crimeShorthand version of Lex locus delcti commissi. The “scene of the crime”.
locus in quothe place in whichThe location where a cause of action arose.
locus poenitentiaeplace of repentanceWhen one party withdraws from a contract before all parties are bound.
locus standiplace of standingThe right of a party to appear and be heard before a court.
mala fide(in) bad faithA condition of being fraudulent or deceptive in act or belief.
malum in sewrong in itselfSomething considered a universal wrong or evil, regardless of the system of laws in effect.
malum prohibitumprohibited wrongSomething wrong or illegal by virtue of it being expressly prohibited, that might not otherwise be so.
mandamuswe commandA writ issue by a higher court to a lower one, ordering that court or related officials to perform some administrative duty. Often used in the context of legal oversight of government agencies.
mare clausumclosed seaA body of water under the jurisdiction of a state or nation, to which access is not permitted, or is tightly regulated.
mare liberumopen seaA body of water open to all. Typically a synonym for International Waters, or in other legal parlance, the “High Seas”.
mea culpathrough my faultAn acknowledgement of wrongdoing.
mens reaguilty mindOne of the requirements for a crime to be committed, the other being actus reus, the guilt act. This essentially is the basis for the notion that those without sufficient mental capability cannot be judged guilty of a crime.
modus operandimanner of operationA person’s particular way of doing things. Used when using behavioral analysis while investigating a crime. Often abbreviated “M.O.”
mortis causain contemplation of deathGift or trust that is made in contemplation of death.
mos pro legecustom for lawThat which is the usual custom has the force of law.
motion in liminemotion at the startMotions offered at the start of a trial, often to suppress or pre-allow certain evidence or testimony.
mutatis mutandishaving changed [the things that] needed to be changedA caution to a reader when using one example to illustrate a related but slightly different situation. The caution is that the reader must adapt the example to change what is needed for it to apply to the new situation.
ne exeatlet him not exit [the republic]Shortened version of ne exeat repiblica: “let him not exit the republic”. A writ to prevent one party to a dispute from leaving (or being taken) from the court’s jurisdiction.
Nemo debet bis vexari (pro una et eadem causa)“no-one should be tried twice (in respect to the same matter)”It is a principle of double jeopardy (autrefois acquit) where a person should not be tried twice on the same matter.
Nemo iudex in causa sua“no-one should be a judge in his own case.”It is a principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest.
nihil dicitHe says nothing.A judgement rendered in the absence of a plea, or in the event one party refuses to cooperate in the proceedings.
nisiunlessA decree that does not enter into force unless some other specified condition is met.
nisi priusunless firstRefers to the court of original jurisdiction in a given matter.
nolle prosequinot to prosecuteA statement from the prosecution that they are voluntarily discontinuing (or will not initiate) prosecution of a matter.
nolo contendereI do not wish to disputeA type of plea whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies the charge. Commonly interpreted as “No contest.”
non adimpleti contractusof a non-completed contractIn the case where a contract imposes specific obligations on both parties, one side cannot sue the other for failure to meet their obligations, if the plaintiff has not themselves met their own.
non compos mentisnot in possession of [one’s] mindNot having mental capacity to perform some legal act
non constatIt is not certain.Refers to information given by one who is not supposed to give testimony, such as an attorney bringing up new information that did not come from a witness. Such information is typically nullified.
non est factumIt is not [my] deed.A method whereby a signatory to a contract can invalidate it by showing that his signature to the contract was made unintentionally or without full understanding of the implications.
non est inventusHe is not found.Reported by a sheriff on writ when the defendant cannot be found in his county or jurisdiction.
non liquetIt is not clear.A type of verdict where positive guilt or innocence cannot be determined. Also called “not proven” in legal systems with such verdicts.
non obstante verdictonotwithstanding the verdictA circumstance where the judge may override the jury verdict and reverse or modify the decision.
novus actus interveniensa new action coming betweenA break in causation (and therefore probably liability) because something else has happened to remove the causal link.
noscitur a sociisIt is known by friends.An ambiguous word or term can be clarified by considering the whole context in which it is used, without having to define the term itself.
nota benenote wellA term used to direct the reader to cautionary or qualifying statements for the main text.
nudum pactumnaked promiseAn unenforceable promise, due to the absence of consideration or value exchanged for the promise.
nulla bonano goodsNotation made when a defendant has no tangible property available to be seized in order to comply with a judgement.
nunc pro tuncnow for thenAn action by a court to correct a previous procedural or clerical error.
obiter dictuma thing said in passingIn law, an observation by a judge on some point of law not directly relevant to the case before him, and thus neither requiring his decision nor serving as a precedent, but nevertheless of persuasive authority. In general, any comment, remark or observation made in passing.
onus probandiBurden of proof.
ore tenus(evidence) presented orally
pacewith peaceUsed to say ‘contrary to the opinion of.’ It is a polite way of marking a speaker’s disagreement with someone or some body of thought.
par delictumequal faultUsed when both parties to a dispute are at fault.
parens patriaeparent of the nationRefers to the power of the State to act as parent to a child when the legal parents are unable or unwilling.
pari passuon equal footingEqual ranking, equal priority (usually referring to creditors).
partus sequitur ventremThat which is brought forth follows the bellyLegal status of children of slaves
pendente litewhile the litigation is pendingCourt orders used to provide relief until the final judgement is rendered. Commonly used in divorce proceedings. The adverbial form of lis pendens (above).
per capitaby headDividing money up strictly and equally according to the number of beneficiaries
per contraby that againstLegal shorthand for “in contrast to”.
per curiamthrough the courtA decision delivered by a multi-judge panel, such as an appellate court, in which the decision is said to be authored by the court itself, instead of situations where those individual judges supporting the decision are named.
per incuriamby their neglectA judgement given without reference to precedent.
per minasthrough threatsUsed as a defense, when illegal acts were performed under duress.
per proxima amiciby or through the next friendEmployed when an adult brings suit on behalf of a minor, who was unable to maintain an action on his own behalf at common law.
per quodby whichUsed in legal documents in the same sense as “whereby”. A per quod statement is typically used to show that specific acts had consequences which form the basis for the legal action.
per seby itselfSomething that is, as a matter of law.
per stirpesby branchAn estate of a decedent is distributed per stirpes, if each branch of the family is to receive an equal share of an estate.
periculum in moradanger in delayA condition given to support requests for urgent action, such as a protective order or restraining order.
persona non grataunwelcome personA person who is officially considered unwelcome by a host country in which they are residing in a diplomatic capacity. The person is typically expelled to their home country.
posse comitatuspower of the countyA body of armed citizens pressed into service by legal authority, to keep the peace or pursue a fugitive.
post hoc ergo propter hocafter this, therefore because of thisA logical fallacy that suggests that an action causes an effect simply because the action occurred before the effect.
post mortemafter deathRefers to an autopsy, or as a qualification as to when some event occurred.
post mortem auctorisafter the author’s deathUsed in reference to intellectual property rights, which usually are based around the author’s lifetime.
postliminiumreturn from the otherRefers to the return of legal standing and property of a person who returns to the jurisdiction of Rome
praetor peregrinusmagistrate of foreignersThe Roman praetor (magistrate) responsible for matters involving non-Romans.
prima facieat first faceA matter that appears to be sufficiently based in the evidence as to be considered true.
pro bonofor goodProfessional work done for free.
pro bono publicofor the public good
pro formaas a matter of formThings done as formalities.
pro hac vicefor this turnRefers to a lawyer who is allowed to participate (only) in a specific case, despite being in a jurisdiction in which he has not been generally admitted.
pro perabbreviation of propria persona, meaning “one’s own person”Representing oneself, without counsel. Also known as pro se representation.
pro ratafrom the rateA calculation adjusted based on a proportional value relevant to the calculation. An example would be a tenant being charged a portion of a month’s rent based on having lived there less than a full month. The amount charged would be proportional to the time occupied.
pro sefor himselfRepresenting oneself, without counsel. Also known as pro per representation.
pro tantofor so muchA partial payment of an award or claim, based on the defendant’s ability to pay.
pro temabbreviation of pro tempore, meaning “for the time being”Something, such as an office held, that is temporary.
pro temporefor the time beingSomething, such as an office held, that is temporary.
propria personaproper personRefers to one representing themselves without the services of a lawyer. Also known as pro per representation.
quawhich; asIn the capacity of.
quaeriturIt is sought.The question is raised. Used to declare that a question is being asked in the following verbiage.
quaerequeryUsed in legal drafts to call attention to some uncertainty or inconsistency in the material being cited.
quantumhow much
quantum meruitas much as it deserves; as much as she or he has earnedIn contract law, a quasi-contractual remedy that permits partial reasonable payment for an incomplete piece of work (services and/or materials), assessed proportionately, where no price is established when the request is made.
In contract law, and in particular the requirement for consideration, if no fixed price is agreed upon for the service and/or materials, then one party would request a reasonable price for the said services and/or materials at the end of the job. A common example would be a plumber requested to fix a leak in the middle of the night.
quantum valebantas much as they were worthUnder Common Law, a remedy to compute reasonable damages when a contract has been breached – the implied promise of payment of a reasonable price for goods.
In contract law, for requirements of consideration, reasonable worth for goods delivered.
Usage: quantum meruit has replaced quantum valebant in consideration; in the case of contract remedy, quantum valebant is being used less, and could be considered obsolete.
quasias ifResembling or being similar to something, without actually being that thing.
qui tamabbreviation of qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “who pursues in this action as much for the king as himself”.In a qui tam action, one who assists the prosecution of a case is entitled to a proportion of any fines or penalties assessed.
quid pro quothis for thatAn equal exchange of goods or services, or of money (or other consideration of equal value) for some goods or services.
quo anteas beforeReturning to a specific state of affairs which preceded some defined action.
quo warrantoby what warrantA request made to someone exercising some power, to show by what legal right they are exercising that power. A type of writ.
quoad hocas to thisUsed to mean “with respect to” some named thing, such as when stating what the law is in regards to that named thing.
RRex or ReginaKing or Queen. In British cases, will see R v Freeman meaning Regina against Freeman. Changes with King or Queen on throne.
ratio decidendireason for the decisionThe point in a legal proceeding, or the legal precedent so involved, which led to the final decision being what it was.
ratio scriptawritten reasonThe popular opinion of Roman law, held by those in the Medieval period.
rationae soliby reason of the soil“Certain rights may arise by virtue of ownership of the soil upon which wild animals are found.”
rebus sic stantibusthings thus standingA qualification in a treaty or contract, that allows for nullification in the event fundamental circumstances change.
reddendo singula singulisreferring solely to the lastThe canon of construction that in a list of items containing a qualifying phrase at the end, the qualifier refers only to the last item in the list.
resthing, matter, issue, affair
res communiscommon to allProperty constructs like airspace and water rights are said to be res communis – that is, a thing common to all, and that could not be the subject of ownership. With airspace, the difficulty has been to identify where the fee simple holder’s rights to the heavens end. Water is a bit more defined – it is common until captured.
res derelictaeabandoned goodsMaterial property abandoned by its owner
res gestaethings doneDiffering meaning depending on what type of law is involved. May refer to the complete act of a felony, from start to finish, or may refer to statements given that may be exempt from hearsay rules. In American procedural law, it refers to a former exception to the hearsay rule for statements made spontaneously or as part of an act. In Canadian and Quebec law, the res gestae is a spontaneous and contemporary statement to the contentious fact.
res judicataa matter judgedA matter that has been finally adjudicated, meaning no further appeals or legal actions by the involved parties is now possible.
res nulliusnobody’s thingOwnerless property or goods. Such property or goods are able and subject to being owned by anybody.
res publicapublic affairAll things subject to concern by the citizenry. The root of the word republic.
respondeat superiorLet the master answer.A concept that the master (e.g. employer) is responsible for the actions of his subordinates (e.g. employees).
scandalum magnatumscandal of the magnatesDefamation against a peer in British law. Now repealed as a specific offense.
scienterknowinglyUsed when offenses or torts were committed with the full awareness of the one so committing.
scire faciasLet them know.A writ, directing local officials to officially inform a party of official proceedings concerning them.
scire feciI have made known.The official response of the official serving a writ of scire facias, informing the court that the writ has been properly delivered.
secundum formam statutiAccording to the form of the statute.
se defendendoself-defenseThe act of defending one’s own person or property, or the well-being or property of another.
seriatimin seriesDescribes the process in which the court hears assorted matters in a specific order. Also refers to an occasion where a multiple-judge panel will issue individual opinions from the members, rather than a single ruling from the entire panel.
sine diewithout dayUsed when the court is adjourning without specifying a date to re-convene. See also adjournment sine die.
sine qua nonwithout which, nothingRefers to some essential event or action, without which there can be no specified consequence.
situsthe placeUsed to refer to laws specific to the location where specific property exists, or where an offense or tort was committed.
stare decisisto stand by [things] decidedThe obligation of a judge to stand by a prior precedent.
status quothe state in whichIn contract law, in a case of innocent representation, the injured party is entitled to be replaced in statu quo. Note the common usage is status quo from the Latin status quo ante, the “state in which before” or “the state of affairs that existed previously.”
status quo ante
statu quo
stratuma covering, from neuter past participle of sternere, to spread1) In property law, condominiums has said to occupy stratum many stories about the ground.
2) Stratum can also be a societial level made up of individuals with similar status of social, cultural or economic nature.
3) Stratum can refer to classification in an organized system along the lines of layers, levels, divisions, or similar grouping.
sua sponteof its own accordSome action taken by the public prosecutor or another official body, without the prompting of a plaintiff or another party. (compare ex proprio motu, ex mero motu which are used for courts).
sub judiceunder the judgeRefers to a matter currently being considered by the court.
sub modosubject to modificationTerm in contract law that allows limited modifications to a contract after the original form has been agreed to by all parties.
sub nomineunder the nameAbbreviated sub nom.; used in case citations to indicate that the official name of a case changed during the proceedings, usually after appeal (e.g., rev’d sub nom. and aff’d sub nom.)
sub silentiounder silenceA ruling, order, or other court action made without specifically stating the ruling, order, or action. The effect of the ruling or action is implied by related and subsequent actions, but not specifically stated.
subpoenaunder penaltyA writ compelling testimony, the production of evidence, or some other action, under penalty for failure to do so.
subpoena ad testificandumunder penalty to be witnessedAn order compelling an entity to give oral testimony in a legal matter.
subpoena duces tecumbring with you under penaltyAn order compelling an entity to produce physical evidence or witness in a legal matter.
suggestio falsifalse suggestionA false statement made in the negotiation of a contract.
sui generisof its own kind/genusSomething that is unique amongst a group.
sui jurisof his own rightRefers to one legally competent to manage his own affairs. Also spelled sui iuris.
suo motuof its own motionRefers to a court or other official agency taking some action on its own accord (synonyms: ex proprio motu, ex mero motu). Similar to sua sponte.
supersedeasrefrain fromA bond tendered by an appellant as surety to the court, requesting a delay of payment for awards or damages granted, pending the outcome of the appeal.
suppressio verisuppression of the truthWillful concealment of the truth when bound to reveal it, such as withholding details of damage from an auto accident from a prospective buyer of the car in that accident.
supraaboveUsed in citations to refer to a previously cited source.
terra nulliusno one’s landLand that has never been part of a sovereign state, or land which a sovereign state has relinquished claim to.
trial de novotrial anewA completely new trial of a matter previously judged. It specifically refers to a replacement trial for the previous one, and not an appeal of the previous decision.
trinoda necessitasthree-knotted needRefers to a threefold tax levied on Anglo-Saxon citizens to cover roads, buildings, and the military.
uberrima fidesmost abundant faithConcept in contract law specifying that all parties must act with the utmost good faith.
ubi eadem ratio, ibi idem juswhere there is the same reason there is the same law; like reason doth make like law.See the judgment of Lord Holt CJ in Ashby v White.
ultra viresbeyond the powersAn act that requires legal authority to perform, but which is done without obtaining that authority.
universitas personarumtotality of peopleAggregate of people, body corporate, as in a college, corporation, or state
universitas rerumtotality of thingsAggregate of things.
uno flatuin one breathUsed to criticize inconsistencies in speech or testimony, as in: one says one thing, and in the same breath, says another contradictory thing.
uti possidetisas you possessAncient concept regarding conflicts, wherein all property possessed by the parties at the conclusion of the conflict shall remain owned by those parties unless treaties to the contrary are enacted.
uxorwifeUsed in documents in place of the wife’s name. Usually abbreviated et ux.
vel nonor notUsed when considering whether some event or situation is either present or it is not.
vetoforbidThe power of an executive to prevent an action, especially the enactment of legislation.
vice versathe other way aroundSomething that is the same either way.
videseeUsed in citations to refer the reader to another location.
videlicetcontraction of videre licet, meaning “it is permitted to see”Used in documents to mean “namely” or “that is”. Usually abbreviated viz.
viz.abbreviation of videlicetNamely.

Ecclesiastical law (Canon Law)

Canon law or canon law (from ancient Greek: κανών, kanon, “a straight measuring meter, a rule”) is a set of ordinances and regulations made by the ecclesiastical authority (the ruling authority of the Church) concerning the government of a Christian organization or church and its members. This is the internal ecclesiastical law, or operational policy, governing the Catholic Church (both the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches), the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the individual National Churches within the Church.

Anglican Communion. The manner in which such an ecclesial law is legislated, interpreted and sometimes judged varies considerably between these four communions of churches. In all three traditions, a canon was originally a rule adopted by a church council; these canons formed the basis of canon law.

Term or phraseDefinition and use
advocatus diaboliOfficial who argues against an individual’s beatification
ebdomadariusPerson in a cathedral who supervises regular performance of religious services and assigns duties of choir members
eleemosynaePossessions of the church
embryo formatusHuman embryo “organized into human shape and endowed with a soul”
embryo informatusHuman embryo before endowment with a soul
episcoporum ecidicuschurch lawyer
episcopus puerorum“bishop of the boys”; a layperson who on some feastdays braided his hair, dressed as a bishop and acted in a “ludicrous” manner
excommunicato capiendoWrit originally issued from chancery that required a sheriff to arrest and imprison an excommunicant defendant
excommunicato recapiendoWrit ordering excommunicant imprisoned for “obstinancy” be re-imprisoned if freed before agreeing to obey authority of church
extravagantesPapal constitutions and decretal epistles of Pope John XXII
formataCanonical letters
gardianus ecclesiaeChurchwarden
legit vel non“Does he read or not?”; this question was asked to church officials by secular courts when an accused defendant claimed a jurisdictional exemption under benefit of the clergy and if the church accepted the claim the official would reply legit ut clericus (“he reads like a clerk”)

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