latin_writingDuring my years as a paralegal and candidate attorney, I was frequently asked by clients the meaning of various Latin legal terms. I have compiled the following list of simple explanations of some of the most commonly used Latin legal terms, which I hope will be of assistance in explaining various terms as simply as possible.

  • A tempore morae
    FROM THE MOMENT OF DEFAULT
    Denotes the date from which a debtor defaulted on a payment.

  • Ad diem
    TO THE DAY APPOINTED
    At the day, as a plea of payment ad diem, on the day when the money became due.

  • Ad idem
    OF SAME MIND
    As one; agreed (e.g. the parties are ad idem on this point).

  • Ad infinitum
    INDEFINITELY
    Denotes a seemingly endless state.

  • Ad hoc
    FOR THIS PURPOSE ONLY
    An ad hoc committee is formed for a specific purpose, usually appointed to solve a particular problem. An ad hoc attorney is one hired to handle one problem only often is a specialist in a particular area or considered especially able to argue a key point.

  • Antenuptial (contract)
    BEFORE MARRIAGE
    A written contract between two people who are about to marry, setting out the terms of possession of assets, treatment of future earnings, control of the property of each, and potential division if the marriage is later dissolved.

  • Bona fide (also see “mala fide”)
    IN GOOD FAITH
    Indicates innocence or lack of knowledge of any fact that would cast doubt.

  • Bona vacantia
    Denotes goods without an apparent owner.

  • Compos mentis
    OF SOUND MIND
    Legally fit to conduct/defend proceedings.

  • De minimis non curat lex
    THE LAW DOES NOT CONCERN ITSELF WITH TRIFLES
    Common law principle whereby judges will not sit in judgment of extremely minor transgressions of the law.

  • Domicilium citandi et executandi
    A physical address where the delivery of legal notice will be accepted by a party to a written agreement.

  • Duces tecum
    BRING WITH YOU
    Order to produce document to court.

  • Ex gratia
    AS A MATTER OF FAVOUR
    An ex gratia payment would be awarded without the acceptance of any liability or blame.

  • Ex officio
    BY VIRTUE OF HIS OFFICE
    Powers are granted and exercised by public/court officers which are not expressly delegated.

  • Ex parte
    ON ONE SIDE ONLY
    Done by/for/on the application of one party alone. An ex parte judicial proceeding is conducted for the benefit of only one party. The term ex parte is used in a case name to signify that the suit was brought by the person whose name follows the term.

  • Fideicommissum
    Usually created in a will, according to which property is first bequeathed to the one person and then subsequently to someone else.

  • Fiduciary
    A person who holds assets in trust for a beneficiary.

  • Forum conveniens
    AT A CONVENIENT PLACE
    A Court having jurisdiction in a particular case.

  • Habeas corpus
    PRODUCE THE BODY
    A writ that directs a person to produce someone held in custody before the court.

  • Habitatio
    RESIDENCE / DWELLING
    The right of free residence in the house of another.

  • Ignorantia juris non excusat
    IGNORANCE OF THE LAW IS NO EXCUSE
    If committing an offence, a guilty party cannot use a defence that they did so without knowledge that they were breaking the law.

  • In situ
    IN THE ORIGINAL POSITION
    If something is in situ, it is in its original place.

  • Inter alia
    AMONG OTHER THINGS
    In pleadings to designate that a particular statute set out therein is only a part of the statute that is relevant to the facts of the lawsuit and not the entire statute. Also used when reporting court decisions to indicate that there were other rulings made by the court but only a particular holding of the case is cited.

  • Intra vires (also see “ultra vires”)
    WITHIN THE POWER OF
    An act that falls within the Jurisdiction of the Court.

  • Ipso facto
    BY THE FACT
    The reliance upon facts that together prove a point.

  • Locus in quo
    THE PLACE IN WHICH
    During proceedings may be used as reference to subject matter, i.e. scene of accident.

  • Mala fide (also see “bona fide”)
    IN BAD FAITH
    Intentional dishonest act by not fulfilling legal or contractual obligations.

  • Mens rea
    GUILTY MIND
    The intention to commit an offence whilst knowing it to be wrong.

  • Mora
    Denotes that a party to a contract, who has an obligation, has neglected to perform same, and is in default.

  • Nemo est supra leges
    NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW
    The law applies to everyone equally.

  • Nulla poena sine lege
    NO PENALTY WITHOUT LAW
    Refers to the legal principle that one cannot be punished for doing something that is not prohibited by law.

  • Obiter dictum
    REMARK IN PASSING
    Remark made or opinion expressed by a judge in a decision, which is incidental or collateral, and not directly bearing upon the question before the court.

  • Post mortem
    AFTER DEATH
    Occurring or done after death.

  • Praedium dominans (also see “praedium serviens”)
    DOMINANT TENEMENT
    Land in favour of which a servitude exists over the land of another.

  • Praedium serviens (also see “praedium dominans”)
    SERVIENT TENEMENT
    Land subject to a servitude in favour of another tenement or land.

  • Prima facie
    FIRST SIGHT
    Prima Facie evidence would be considered sufficient to prove a case unless disproved – if no Prima Facie evidence can be offered there is no case to answer.

  • Res ipsa loquitur
    THE THING SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
    An event that has occurred which, if the subject of litigation, would not require an onus of proof by the plaintiff because of the obvious negligence of the defendant.

  • Salvo iure
    WITHOUT PREJUDICE
    Without any loss or waiver of rights or privileges.

  • Sequester
    SEPARATE
    To take (property) out of possession of the owner until a debt has been settled.

  • Sic
    JUST LIKE THAT
    A misspelled or incorrect word in a quotation followed by “sic” indicates that the error appeared in the original source.

  • Subpoena ad testificum
    TO PRODUCE EVIDENCE
    A writ directed to a person commanding him/her, under a penalty, to appear before a Court and give evidence.

  • Ultra vires (also see “intra vires”)
    BEYOND THE POWER
    An act that falls outside or beyond the jurisdiction of the court.

  • Usufruct
    USING THE FRUITS
    The right of enjoying a thing (property), ownership of which is vested in another, and to draw from the same all the profit, utility, and advantage which it may produce, provided it be without altering the substance of the thing (property).

  • Usus magister est optimus
    PRACTICE IS THE BEST TEACHER
    Practice makes perfect.

  • Vide / Viz. (abbreviation of the “videlicet”)
    IT MAY BE SEEN
    Used as synonym for “namely”, “precisely”, “that is to say” or to introduce a specification or a more detailed description of something stated before.

 

Contributed to Tech4Law by:
Michelé Holland
LegalSuite Software
0861 711150
http://www.legalsuite.co.za

 

Reference Sources:

“Concise Law Dictionary” Sixth edition (Burke Osborn) 1976
“The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations” (John R. Stone) 2004
“Trilingual Legal Dictionary” Third edition (Hiemstra & Gonin) Juta 2001

 

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