Latin Legal Terms Posted by on Jul 10, 2011 in Latin Language

It’s not surprising that there is so much Latin used in English legal terminology. Some of our laws, after all, have derived from Latin. So that being said, do you recognize any of these words and phrases?

(1)   pro bono

(2)  quid pro quo

(3)  modus operandi

(4)  habeas corpus

(5)  volenti non fit injuria

(6)  subpoena

(7)  affidavit

(8)  amicus curiae

(9)  in absentia

(10) in flagrante delicto

(11) se defendendo


(1)   “for the pubic good”; used when work is undertaken without payment.

(2)  “what for what”; used when a good or service is exchanged for something of equivalent value

(3)  “mode of operating”; in court it is sometimes used to refer to how a crime was perpetrated

(4)  “you may have the body”; where a prisoner can be released if he was unlawfully detained

(5)  “to a willing person no injury is done”; means that if a person consents to being in a situation where he knows he may be faced with potential harm, he cannot sue if he is harmed.

(6)  “under penalty”; where the court can compel someone to testify or provide evidence before a court of law

(7)  “he has declared upon oath”; is a signed, sworn statement

(8)   “friend of the court”; is used when someone who is not involved with the case offers to give information that could assist the case.

(9)  “in the absence” refers to the idea that defendants have the right to be present when they are charged with a crime.

(10) “in blazing offence”; used when a criminal has been caught in the act of committing the crime.

(11) “self defence”; sometimes used by lawyers to argue that not just self defense would have resulted in the client’s injury or death.


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