Law Latin – corrupted form of Latin (mixed with French and English) used in law and legal documents, including writs, royal charters, and private deeds

Law Latin:

1. A corrupted form of Latin formerly used in law and legal documents, including judicial writs, royal charters, and private deeds.  It primarily consists of a mixture of Latin, French, and English words used in English sentence structures.— Abbr. L.L.; L. Lat. — Also written law Latin. [1]

     Excerpt from Alexander M. Burrill’s A Law Dictionary and Glossary (2d ed. 1867):

      “LAW LATIN. A technical kind of Latin, in which the pleadings and proceedings of the English courts were enrolled and recorded from a very early period to the reign of George II . . . . The principal peculiarities of this language consist first, in its construction, which is adapted so closely to the English idiom as to answer to it sometimes word for word; and, secondly, in the use of numerous words ‘not allowed by grammarians nor having any countenance of Latin,’ but framed from the English by merely adding a Latin termination, as murdrum from murder . . . . [2]

     Excerpt from Bryan A. Garner’s Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage (3d ed. 2011):

     “Law Latin, formerly sometimes called ‘dog Latin,’ is the bastardized or debased Latin formerly used in law and legal documents.  For the most part, we have escaped from its clutches.  In 1730, Parliament abolished Law Latin in legal proceedings, but two years later found it necessary to allow Latin phrases that had previously been in common use, such as fieri facias, habeas corpus, ne exeat, and nisi prius.  As Blackstone would later say, some Latinisms were ‘not . . . capable of an English dress with any degree of seriousness.’ 3 William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England 323 (1768). [3]


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: 2 Alexander M. Burrill, A Law Dictionary and Glossary 135 (2d ed. 1867).

[3]: Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 521 (3d ed. 2011).


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