Beginner’s Guide to Latin Terminologies

The life of a lawyer or even a law student is much different than those of the other profession. This multifaceted profession requires building extensive networks, mastering legal concepts, developing outstanding arguing and writing skills, drafting complicated legal documents and excellent time management.

However, the entry barrier for an evolving lawyer or law student is always hard and difficult to penetrate. Therefore, this blog provides the basic guide on legal terminologies and a quick guide reference to some of the commonly used terminologies and their meanings for a budding lawyer’s easy and quick reference.

How Did Latin Terminologies Dominate Legal Vocabulary?

The Latin terminologies used in law practice today are a mixed outcome of the judicial history and heritage from Europe. The Europeans were the first to create laws and rules. Therefore,the European laws had multiple influences over various time periods across Europe which gave rise to the Roman law, Catholic law also known as Canon law, Anglo Saxon law, Germanic law, Norman French law. These laws influenced each other through the many invasions and war. However, there came a point of time where it was tough to maintain a pure language. England at one point of time, had three system of National laws such as the English, the French and Latin. In order to streamline legal vocabularies, Latin was chosen, as Latin was the widely spoken language at that time. As a result, the legal vocabulary today still continues to carry the same  Latin influence in the legal world.

Commonly Used Latin Terminologies in the Field of Law – Your Quick Reference

  • Depose – means To testify or to take sworn
  • Mens rea – ‘guilty mind’ or it is used to describe the criminal intention that is there in a person who has initiated the criminal activity
  • Actually really – ‘guilty act’ it is stated for mentioning the act which caused the criminal activity in a place or jurisdiction
  • Pro se – this is used in a situation where a person who does not use a lawyer but represent himself.
  • Infra/supra – infra means below and supra means above. This is usually used in research and articles that is used to cite a material
  • Prima facie – it is the Latin interpretation of the word ‘on the face of it’ or on the first look
  • Ex parte – when court gives orders and one party alone is present during the trial, it is usually called as ex parte order
  • In re – ‘In the matter of’ this is generally used to mention a case
  • Bona fide – it is used to mention the good faith. This is even used as a general contention to mention the genuinity of a matter
  • De Novo – This is mentioned in the independent nature of the higher court to decide on trials without worrying about the lower court’s decision
  • Alibi – the piece of evidence that lies, usually in a criminal activity
  • Amicus curiae – Friend of the court. When a person advises court on certain issue then he is usually called so
  • Ipso facto – when a specific action is a direct consequence of another action it is known as Ipso facto
  • Volenti non fit injuria – it is a doctrine which states, when a person places himself in a place he would get hurt, knowing he would get hurt it makes him non-eligible to bring a claim against the other
  • Obiter dicta – a part of a judgement that actually just talks about the judge’s opinion rather than the rule of law
  • Ratio decidendi – a part of a judgement which actually speaks about the rule of law. In other words, it is the content of a judgement other than the obiter dicta
  • Res Judicata – a matter already heard by the court. Therefore, the same issue in the same court by the same party cannot be brought for litigation. In such situations, it is known as Res Judicata.
  • Caveat emptor – the concept which states that the buyer alone is responsible for what he is buying. (I.e. the buyer has to be careful on the quality and quantity aspects of the product or service that he is availing.)
  • Ignoria Juris non Excusat – this means that ignorance of law cannot be an excuse for violation of a law
  • nulla poenna sine lege – There cannot be a punishment if there is no law for that action
  • Ultra vires – overriding the scope or power of the person trying to exercise it
  • Ab initio – from the beginning
  • Doli incapax – incapable of violating a law
  • Sub judice – when a matter is said to be subjudice, it means the matter has come to the court and hence it is prohibited for the public to comment upon it

How Can Steno Help You With Latin Legal Terminologies?

Steno is a great tool for young lawyers to explore, as it cut shorts time and easily recognises and grasps legal terminologies as you narrate, and helps put together a legal document in minutes, compared to the traditional typing which takes a good couple of hours.

A web application tool that converts voice to text, it is a SIMPLE, FAST and EASY application to use. To know more about Steno and its working, click , sign up and start voice typing  your drafts today.


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