Common (and useful) Latin Legal Terms

Latin Legal Terms

Here you can find latin legal terms used both in Ancient Rome and in the present times, in the modern legal system. If a certain expression has two or more possible translations, here we give you only what it means in the legal context.

ab initio
From the beginning

actus reus
A guilty deed or act

ad hoc
For this purpose

ad infinitum
To infinity, without limit, forever

Elsewhere, at another place

amicus curiae
Friend of the court (i.e., impartial spokesperson)

Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur!
Those green pants go so well with that pink shirt and the plaid jacket!

A write from a High Court to Lower Court


corpus delicti
The body of the offense

de novo
Starting afresh

Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit!
look at the time! My wife will kill me!

Having been made in error.

et alii (et al.)
Among others

et cetera
And other things. Generally used in the sense of “and so forth”.

et sequens (et seq.)
And the following ones. Used in citations to indicate that the cited portion extends to the pages following the cited page.

et uxor (et ux.)
And wife. Usually used instead of naming a man’s wife as a party in a case.

et vir
And husband. Usually used instead of naming a woman’s husband as a party in a case.

ex parte
From [for] one party A decision reached, or case brought, by or for one party without the other party being present.

ex post facto
From a thing done afterward Commonly said as “after the fact.”

ex post facto law
A retroactive law. E.g. a law that makes a past act illegal that was not illegal when it was done.

Fac ut gaudeam.
Make my day.

in loco parentis
In place of a parent

inter alia
Amongst other things

ipso facto
By that very fact

Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est.
The designated hitter rule has got to go.

lis pendens
Suit pending Often used in the context of public announcements of legal proceedings to come.


mala fides
Bad faith

We command A writ issue by a higher court to a lower one, ordering that court or related officials to perform some administrative duty. Often used in the context of legal oversight of government agencies.

mens rea
Guilty state of mind

Mellita, domi adsum.
Honey, I’m home.

modus operandi
Manner of operation A person’s particular way of doing things. Used when using behavioral analysis while investigating a crime. Often abbreviated “M.O.”

motion in limine
Motion at the start. Motions offered at the start of a trial, often to suppress or pre-allow certain evidence or testimony.


nolo contendere
I do not wish to contend. A type of plea whereby the defendant neither admits nor denies the charge.

non sequitur
It does not follow, i.e., an inconsistent statement.

Nullo metro compositum est.
It doesn’t rhyme.

Non curo. Si metrum non habet, non est poema.
I don’t care. If it doesn’t rhyme, it isn’t a poem.

nunc pro tunc
now for then An action by a court to correct a previous procedural or clerical error.

pendente lite
while the litigation is pending. Court orders used to provide relief until the final judgement is rendered. Commonly used in divorce proceedings.

per capita
by the head. In the context of estate planning, dividing money up strictly and equally according to the number of beneficiaries.

per contra
by that against. Legal shorthand for “in contrast to”

per curiam
through the court. A decision delivered by a multi-judge panel, such as an appellate court, in which the decision is said to be authored by the court itself, instead of situations where those individual judges supporting the decision are named. It is used when all the judges are in agreement on the decision.

prima facie
On the face of it

pro hac vice
For this occasion

pro tempore
For the time being

Quo signo nata es?
What’s your sign?

Radix lecti
Couch potato

In the matter of…

Re vera, potas bene.
Say, you sure are drinking a lot.

stare decisis
The decision stands. The obligation of a judge(s) to stand by a prior precedent.

sui generis

Sic faciunt omnes.
Everyone is doing it.

subpoena duces tecum
bring with you under penalty An order compelling an entity to produce physical evidence in a legal matter.

Te audire no possum. Musa sapientum fixa est in aure.
I can’t hear you. I have a banana in my ear.

Totum dependeat.
Let it all hang out.

Trial de novo
New trial. In the context of personal injury cases, the term refers to one parties request for a trial to a jury because they are dissatisfied with the results of a mandatory arbitration under the Superior Court rules.

Ventis secundis, tene cursum.
Go with the flow.

Vescere bracis meis.
Eat my shorts.

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