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Latin Legal Terms and its Meaning in English


Latin Word or Phrase English Meaning
Ab initio From the very beginning, from the start of something
Ab extra From outside
Ad idem


In agreement, meeting of the minds by parties


Ad infinitum


To continue forever, without limit


Ad nauseum


Disgusting or ridiculous to the extent of causing nausea (vomiting)


Ad valorem


Proportionate to the value




At another place, Elsewhere
The fact or state of having been elsewhere at the time


Ambiguitas latens Latent ambiguity not appearing on instant inspection


Ambiguitas patens An ambiguity that readily appears on the face of document or instrument


Amicus curiae


A person or organisation that is not a party to the litigation but is permitted by law to advise it (court), friend of the court


Animus possidendi


An intention to possess


Audi alteram partem


Let the other side be heard as well


Bona fide


Real, genuine, sincere, made or carried out in good faith


Mala fide


Dishonest, made or carried out in bad faith


Caveat emptor


Let the buyer beware. The principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made
De facto Of fact, in reality


De jure


Of law, officially


De novo


Afresh, from the beginning


Ejusdem generis Of the same kind or nature


Ex gratia


A favour or gift that is not legally necessary


Ex parte


Without the presence or participation of opposite party


Ex post facto


Retroactive, affecting something that has already happened


Fait Accompli


Accomplished and cannot be changed now


Fiat justitia


Let the justice be done though the heavens fall


Inter alia


Amongst other things


In limine


At the outset, on the threshold Such order excludes the challenged
evidence and directs the parties not to refer to the excluded matters during trial


Jus ad rem


A right to a thing


Jus in personam


Right against a person


Letter rogatory


Formal request from a court to foreign court for some type of judicial assistance


Locus standi


Right to bring an action, to be heard in court, sufficient connection and harm form the law or action


Modus operandi


Method of operation, particular way of doing something


Mutatis mutandis


Having changed what needs to be changed;
once the necessary changes have been made


Nudum pactum


Naked promise, bare promise


Obiter That which is said in passing;
Such statements lack the force of precedent but nevertheless be significant


Onus probandi


Burden of proof, proof of assertion. It includes both the burden of production and persuasion.


Parens patriae


Parent of the nation, legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves


Pari passu


Side by side, at the same rate, equally, on equal footing


Per incuriam


Through lack of care


Prima facie


At first sight, based on first impression


Pro bono publico Professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment



Latin Word or Phrase English Meaning
Quid pro quo


A favour or advantage granted in return for something


Ratio dicidendi


The rule of law on which a judicial decision is based


Raison d'etre


Reason for being, reason for something's existence


Res integra


A point without a precedent, entire thing, untouched matter


Res nullius


Nobody's thing, belonging to no one


Sine qua non


An essential condition, a thing that is absolute necessary


Intra vires


Within one's legal power or authority


Ultra vires


Acting or done beyond one's legal power or authority


Actus reus


A guilty act, an act which is illegal such as theft


Ad hoc


For a particular purpose


Sine die


No fixed date to continue




A false name








A warning




An order by the High Court that the case should be reviewed


Habeas Corpus


A writ which can be applied for to order a person's release, if he/she has been imprisoned unlawfully. Produce the body (in court)




A rule of law that a person cannot deny something he/she/it previously said, if someone else acted on what was said and
their position was changed, possibly for the worse, as a result




In a position of trust


Mens rea


The intention to commit a crime and also the knowledge that an act is wrong




Through, by


Per pro


On behalf of


Per quod


In accordance, whereby


Per se


In itself, by itself


Pro rata


In proportion


Res ipsa loquitur


Proof is not needed because the facts speak for themselves


Sub judice


Something being dealt with by a court which cannot be discussed outside the court


Sui generis


Something that belongs in a particular category or is the only one of its class


Sui juris


Someone who can enter into a contract without any restriction








Below, inside






Uberrimae fidei


Of the utmost good faith




an order issued by a court telling someone to do something or not to do something


A fortiori


From stronger argument


Ad litem


As regards the action


Ad referendum


Subject to reference




An error in printing or writing


Ex officio


By virtue of holding an office




In the same place


Ignorantia juris non
Ignorance of law is not an excuse
In camera


In chamber, in private


In curia


In open court


In re


In the matter of


Ipso facto


By that very fact or act




As if, almost


Res judicata A matter that has been decided. Judicial pronouncements



Latin Word or Phrase English Meaning


So, thus
(Used in brackets after a copied or quoted word that appears odd or erroneous to show that the word is quoted exactly as it stands in the original)




We command, Writ is a command issued to public official, bodies


Quo warranto


By that warrant, Stops usurpation of public office by anyone




Writ by Supreme Court and High Court to lower courts which exceeds to their jurisdiction or acting the rule of natural justice


Suo moto
Suo motu


On its own motion


Ad interim


In the meantime, temporarily


Et al, Et alii, Et alia


And others


Et cetera


And other things


Exempli gratia (e.g.)


For the sake of example


In absentia


In absence


In toto


In total, totally


Inter se


Among themselves


Nota bene (NB)


Note well


Per capita


By head, per head


Vice versa


The other way around






Videlicet (viz.)






I forbid


Sub modo


Subject to modification


Status quo
Status quo ante


The state of affairs that existed previously


Vox populi


The opinions or beliefs of the majority, Voice of the people


Ad infinitum


To infinity, to continue forever


Ex facie


On the face


Per contra


In contrast to, by that against


Pro per
Pro se


For himself


Pro tem
Pro tempore




Id est (i.e.)


That is, in other words




Regarding, concerning (used as apropos of)


Jus naturale


Natural justice


Magnum opus


A great work of literature


Nemo dat quod non
No one can give a better title than he has




Sui generis






Word by word, exactly


Legum Baccalaureus
Juris Doctor


Bachelor of Laws (LLB)


Philosophiae Doctor


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Ante meridiem (AM)


Before midday
Post meridiwm (PM)


Past midday, after midday














I hear


Dictum factum


What is said is done


Fac simile
Make alike (Fax)


In memoriam


In memory of






Viva Voce With living voice, by word of mouth
Curriculum vitae Course of one's life
Bonus Good, extra sum
Ergo Therefore
Pro forma As a matter of form
Ad rem To the point
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