Court of Equity. A court which administers justice ac-
cording to the principles of equity.
Court. A body in the government to which the public
administration of justice is delegated. The judge or judges
themselves, when duly convened, are addressed as "The
Court of Nisi Prius. A court of original civil jurisdic-
tion in the city and county of Philadelphia. It is held by one
of the judges of the Supreme Court of the State. Jurisdic-
tion, $500 or over.
Court of Oyer and Terminer. The name of courts of
criminal jurisdiction in some States, as New York, Georgia
and some others.
Court of Probate. A court which has jurisdiction in
the probate of wills and in the management and settlement of
estates of decedents and control of minors' estates, and other
persons who are under special protection of law.
Covenant. A contract, under seal.
Coverture. The condition or state of a lawfully married
Credibility. Worthiness of belief. The jury determines
the credibility of witnesses, the court their competency.
Crim. Con. An abbreviation for Criminal Conversation.
It means adultery, or unlawful sexual intercourse with a mar-
Crime. An act committed or omitted in violation of a
public law, forbidding or commanding it. When the act is of
an inferior degree of guilt it is usually called a misdemeanor.
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 297
Criminal Law. That branch of jurisprudence which
treats of crimes and offenses.
Cross-Examination. The examination of a witness by
the party opposed to the party who called him.
Curtesy. The life estate to which a man is entitled by
common law, on the death of his wife, in the lands which she
owned in fee simple during their coverture, provided they had
lawful issue, born alive and capable of inheriting the estate.
Customs. Taxes payable on goods imported or exported.
Damages. The indemnity recoverable by a person who
has sustained an injury, through the act, default or negligence
of another, either in his person, property or rights.
Date. The designation in an instrument of writing of the
time when and the place where it was made.
Days of Grace. Certain days, usually three, allowed to
the acceptor of a bill or maker of a note in which to pay, in
addition to the time contracted for in the bill or note.
De Facto. Actually; in fact.
De Jure. Rightfully; lawfully; by legal title. A person
who is actually performing the functions and duties of an offi-
cer would be an officer de facto, while the one who is legally
entitled to the place but is deprived of it is an officer, de jure.
Dead-Born. A dead-born child is considered in law as if
it had never been conceived or born. Non nasci, et natutn
mori, pari sunt. (Not to be born and to be born dead are
Decedent. A deceased person.
Declaration. A statement in methodical and logical
form of the circumstances that constitute a plaintiff's cause of
Deed. An instrument in writing under seal which con-
tains an agreement between parties competent to contract and
which has been delivered by the party to be bound and ac-
298 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
cepted by the other. Most frequently used as the conveyance
of real estate, but really applies to any other matter as well.
Default. Failure to perform a contract. In practice it
means the non-appearance of a party to a suit at court within
the time prescribed by law.
Defendant. The party called upon to answer either in
law or equity and in civil and criminal suits.
Deficit. The deficiency that is discovered in the moneys
handled or received by an accountant.
Delivery. In conveyancing. The transfer of a deed from
the grantor to the grantee, In Contracts. The transfer of the
possession of a thing from one to another. In Medical Juris-
prudence. The act of a woman giving birth to her offspring.
Demand. A request to do a particular thing specified,
under a claim of right by the one requesting.
Demise. The conveyance of an estate in fee, for life or
for years. This word also means death, but this is a borrowed
or correlative signification. The "demise of the King," Plow-
den says, meant only that in consequence of this disunion of
the King's natural body from his body politic, the kingdom is
transferred or demised to his successor, and so the royal dignity
Demurrer. In Pleading. An allegation which admits
the truth of matters alleged by the opposing party, but denies
their sufficiency in law to maintain the issue, and refusing to
proceed until the court decides the question. It means liter-
ally a stop or pause.
Deponent. One who makes a deposition.
Deposition. The testimony of a witness reduced to writ-
ing, in due form of law, and by authority of some competent
court, to be used on the trial of some question of fact in a
court of justice. The opposing party has a right to notifica-
tion of time and place of taking a deposition so they may be
present and cross-examine.
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 299
Descent. Title by descent is the title by which one per-
son, upon the death of another, acquires the real estate of the
deceased as his heir at law.
Devise. A gift of real property by a person's last will
Devisee. A person to whom a devise is made.
Devisor. One who devises.
Disability. The lack of legal capacity, as infancy, insan-
Discount. Interest withheld in advance from the amount
of the loan.
Dishonor. A note or bill of exchange is dishonored by
the refusal or neglect to pay it when due.
Distress. The taking of a personal chattel out of the
possession of a wrong-doer, into the custody of the party in-
jured, to procure satisfaction for the wrong done. Bouvier.
Divorce. The dissolution, or partial suspension, by law,
of the marriage relation. See Chapter on Divorces.
Docket. A formal record of court proceedings.
Domicil. The place where a man has his true, fixed and
permanent home, and to which whenever he is absent he has
the intention of returning.
Dower. A widow's life interest in the lands and tene-
ments of her husband.
Duplicate. The double of anything.
Duress. Personal restraint, or fear of personal injury,
used to compel a person to make a deed, or sign some paper,
or commit some offense.
Elector. One who has the right to vote.
Embezzlement. The act of fraudulently removing and
secreting personal property with the care and management of
which the party has been entrusted, for the purpose of apply-
ing it to his own use.
300 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
Emblements. The right of a tenant to take and remove,
after the termination of his tenancy, such products of the land
as have resulted from his own labor. The annual crops, corn,
Embracery. An attempt to corrupt or influence a jury,
by money, promises, threats, etc.
Eminent Domain. The power of the government to
take private property for public use.
Equity. Natural justice. A branch of remedial justice,
by and through which relief is afforded to suitors in causes
where there is no relief at law.
Equity of Redemption. A right which a mortgagor of
an estate has of redeeming it after it has been forfeited at law
Escrow. A deed delivered to a stranger to be by him de-
livered to the grantee upon the happening of certain condi-
tions. Upon the last delivery the transmission of title is com-
Estate. -The* degree, quantity, nature and extent of in-
terest which a person has in real property.
Estoppel. The preclusion of a person from asserting a
fact by his own previous conduct, inconsistent therewith.
Eviction. Depriving a person of the possession of his
lands or tenements.
Evidence. That which tends to prove or disprove any
matter in question.
Ex Officio. - By virtue of his office.
Ex Parte. Of the one part.
Ex Post Facto Law.- A law relating to the punishment
of crime which makes an act criminal which was not a crime
when it was committed ; or which makes an offense punishable
in a manner in which it was not punishable when it was com
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 301
mitted. The words mean literally, "by a law made after-
ward." The idea is to make a law to fit a particular case
which has already happened. The Constitution of the United
States says no ex post facto law shall be passed.
Exception. In contracts. A clause in a deed by which
the grantor excepts something out of that which he granted
before the deed, hi practice. Objections made to the de-
cisions of the court in the course of the trial.
Executor. One to whom a man commits by his last will
the execution or carrying out of the provisions of that will.
Exemplary Damages. Damages allowed as a punish-
ment for torts committed with fraud, malice or violence.
Exemption. The right given by law to a debtor to hold
a portion of his property free from liability to execution at the
suit of a creditor, or to a distress from rent.
Extortion. The unlawful taking by any officer, by virtue
of his office, of anything of value that is not due him, or more
than is due, or before it is due.
Extradition. The surrender by one sovereign State to
another, on its demand, of persons charged with the commis-
sion of a crime within its jurisdiction, in pursuance of a
treaty; or by one of the States of the United States to an-
other, in pursuance of statutory law.
Factor. A person employed to sell goods delivered to
him, for a compensation, called commission. He always has
possession of the goods and thus differs from a broker who
sells by sample.
False Pretenses. In Criminal Law. False representa-
tions of facts made with a fraudulent design to obtain money,
goods or merchandise with intent to cheat. The representa-
tion must be of a present, existing state of things or a past
event. An assurance with reference to a future transaction
will not amount to a statutory false pretense.
302 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
Fault. An improper act or omission which arises from
ignorance, carelessness or negligence.
Fee-Simple. An estate of inheritance. It is the largest
possible estate that a man can have, being an absolute estate
in perpetuity. The word "simple" adds no meaning to the
word "fee" standing alone, but it excludes all restriction as to
the persons who may inherit it as heirs, distinguishing it from
a fee-tail and from inheritable estates subject to collateral con-
Felony. An offense, originally in English Common Law,
that was punished by a total, forfeiture of lands or goods, or
both, and capital or other punishment may be added according
to the degree of guilt. The word has no clearly defined mean-
ing in American law, but the statutes of nearly all the States
define it fully and clearly. As a rule, however, in most of the
States, as Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, it means a crime
punishable by death or imprisonment in the State's prison,
and no other.
Female. The sex which bears young. It is a general
rule of law that the young of a female animal belongs to the
one who owns the mother.
Feud. Land held of a superior on condition of rendering
Feudal Law. A system of tenures of real property
which prevailed in Western Europe during the middle ages.
The feudal tenure was a right to lands on the condition of per-
forming services and rendering allegiance to a superior lord.
Fixtures. Personal chattels affixed to real estate, which
may be severed and removed by the party who has affixed
them, or by his representative, against the will of the owner of
the freehold. Bouvier.
See "Deed to a Farm."
Flotsam. Goods, which being thrown overboard from a
ship to save the rest of the cargo or passengers, float.
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 303
Foeticide. Criminal abortion.
Foreclosure. A legal proceeding by which the mort-
gagor's right of redemption of the mortgaged property is
Forfeiture of Bond. A failure to perform the condi-
tion on which the obligee was to be excused from the penalty
in the bond.
Forgery. The falsely making or materially altering, with
intent to defraud, any writing which, if genuine, might appar-
ently be of legal efficacy or the foundation of a legal liability.
The statutes of most of the States define forgery with great
particularity and reference should be made to them.
Fornication Unlawful sexual intercourse by an unmar-
ried person with another, either married or not. Marriage dis-
tinguishes this offense from adultery.
Franchise. A special privilege conferred by govern-
ment or individuals, and not belonging to the citizens by com-
mon right; e.g., the elective franchise.
Fraud. The unlawful appropriation of another's prop-
erty, with knowledge, by design, and without criminal intent.
Fraud vitiates everything with which it is connected. When
proved it avoids a contract ab initio. It is not of itself a
crime, for want of criminal intent, though it may become such
in cases provided by law. The statutes of the different States
define frauds and their punishments.
Frauds, Statute of. "An Act for the Prevention of
Frauds and Perjuries," passed in the reign of Charles II., of
England, the object of which was to require certain transac-
tions to be in writing. Nearly all the States have adopted
some of the many provisions of this celebrated statute.
Freehold. An estate of inheritance or for life.
Full Age. The age of twenty-one for both males and fe-
304 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
males in all States of the Union excepting Vermont aud Ohio,
where a female reaches full age at eighteen.
Garnishee. A person who has or is thought to have
money or property in his possession belonging to a defendant,
which money or property has been attached in his hands and
he has been garnished, that is, given notice of such attach-
Gestation. In Medical Jurisprudence. The time during
which a female, who has conceived, carries the embryo or
foetus in her uterus. This is an extremely important question
in determining the legitimacy of children for the inheritance of
estates and other important matters may depend upon the
settlement, of that point. The usual period of pregnancy is ten
lunar months, two hundred and eighty days, equal to nine
calendar months and one week. Our laws fix no precise limit
but admit the possibility of a birth occurring previous to or
after the usual time.
. Good Will. The advantage or benefit enjoyed by a busi-
ness beyond the value of capital, stock, etc., in consequence of
patronage from regular customers, or on account of position,
or celebrity, or reputation for skill or punctuality, or other ac-
Grand Jury. A body of men consisting of not fewer than .
twelve nor more than twenty-four (in this country generally
fifteen), who hear accusations in criminal charges and if the
evidence is sufficient find an indictment against the party com-
plained of. The grand jury hears only evidence against the
person charged. The proceeding before the grand jury is not
a trial but simply an examination of the evidence against the
party to ascertain whether he should be presented to the
court for trial. Twelve must concur in order to find a true
bill, otherwise it must be ignored. Their operations must be
kept strictly secret.
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 305
Grand Larceny. See Larceny.
Grant. A transfer by deed of that which can not be
passed by livery.
Grantee. He to whom a grant is made.
Grantor. He who makes a grant.
Ground Rent. Rent paid for the privilege of building
on another man's land.
Guarantee. He to whom a guaranty is made.
Guarantor. He who makes a guaranty.
Guaranty. A collateral undertaking to pay the debt of
another in case he does not. The Statute of frauds provides
that such an undertaking must be in writing and signed by
the party to be charged. See Surety.
Guardian. One who has legally the care and management
of the person, or the estate, or both, of a child during minority.
Guardian ad Litem. A guardian appointed to manage
the interests of a minor in a suit.
Habeas Corpus. (Latin, that you have the body.) A
writ directed to the person who is detaining another and
commanding him to produce the body of the prisoner at a
certain time and place. The object is to inquire into the
cause of a person's imprisonment with a view to protect his
right to personal liberty. This is the most famous writ in
the law. It is often called the great writ of liberty because
for centuries it has been used to remove illegal restraint upon
Head of a Family. One who provides for a family.
Heir. He who succeeds to the rights and occupies the
place of a deceased person.
Heir Apparent. One who has an indefeasable right to
the inheritance, provided he outlive the ancestor.
Hereditaments. Things capable of being inherited,
whether corporeal or incorporeal, real, personal or mixed.
306 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
Hermaphrodite. A person or animal having the sexual
organs of both male and female. In law they are adjudged
to belong to the sex which most prevails in them.
High-Water Mark. The line on the shore reached by
the waves of the sea when the tide is at its highest point.
Highway. A passage, road or street which every citizen
has a right to use.
Homestead. The place of the house, or home place.
Homestead farm does not necessarily include all the parcels
of land he owns even if they all lie together. This depends
upon the intention of the parties and if the term is used in a
deed the extent of its application must be gathered from the
Homicide. The killing of a human being by a human
Excusable Homicide. A killing under such circumstances
of accident or necessity that the party is relieved from the
penalty annexed to the commission of a felonious homicide.
Felonious Homicide. A killing committed willfully and under
such circumstances as to make it punishable. Justifiable
Homicide. A killing committed with full intent but under
such circumstances of duty as to render the act one proper to
be performed. When the death is intentionally caused by the
deceased himself he is called a felo de se.
House-Breaking. The forcible entry of a house for un-
lawful purposes by day light. See Burglary.
Household. Those who dwell under the same roof and
constitute a family.
Household Furniture: All personal chat': 1 - that con-
tribute to the use or convenience of the household or to the
ornamentation of the house.
Household Goods. Everything of a permanent nature
used in or purchased lor the house, except goods kept in the
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 307
way of trade. By permanent nature is meant things not
consumed in their enjoyment.
Householder. Master or chief of a house.
Hypothecation. A right which has been conferred upon
a creditor in or to a thing, which is not delivered into his
possession, by which he has the power to cause that thing to
be sold and the proceeds applied to the discharge of a debt
due him from the person hypothecating. A pledge of goods
to secure a debt without delivery of goods so pledged.
I. O. U. A memorandum of debt used among merchants.
It is not a promissory note, for it contains no direct promise
Idiot. A person without understanding or sense from his
nativity, and whom the law presumes, therefore, never likely
to attain any.
Ignorance. Lack of knowledge. " Ignorantia legis nemi-
nem excusat" Ignorance of the law excuses no one.
Illicit. Unlawful; forbidden by law.
Imbecility. Mental deficiency, usually congenital, but
sometimes resulting from an obstacle to the development of
the mind coming on in infancy.
Impanel. To write the names of the jurors in a panel.
Impeachment. A written accusation against a public of-
ficer. In England the House of Commons prefers the charge
of impeachment and the House of Lords tries the impeach-
ment. In the United States the House of Representatives
has the sole power of impeachment and the Senate the sole
power to try all impeachments. It requires a two-thirds vote
of the Senate to convict. When the President is impeached
the Chief Justice presides at the trial. The penalty in cases
of conviction shall not extend further than removal from office
and disqualification to hold any office of honor, trust or profit
308 THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
under 'the United States. In Evidence. The allegation and
proof that a witness is unworthy of belief.
Impotence. The incapacity for copulation or propagation
of the species.
In Loco Parentis. In the place of a parent.
In Personam. A remedy in which the proceedings are
against the person, distinguished from those which are against
things, in rem.
In Re. In the matter of; as in re John Doe, in the matter
of John Doe.
In Rem. A form of action where the proceedings are
against the thing; distinguished from personal actions, in per-
In Statu Quo. In the same situation as ; in the former
Incapacity. The want of a quality legally to do some-
Incendiary. One guilty of the crime of arson.
Incest. The carnal copulation or sexual intercourse of a
man and woman related in the degrees within which marriage
is prohibited by law.
Incumbrance. Any legal claim or lien upon land con-
sistent with the passing of the fee.
Indemnity. Something given to a person to prevent his
suffering loss or damage. When the State takes private
property for public use it indemnifies the owner.
Indenture. A formal written instrument, containing a
contract, between two or more persons, in different interests.
It was formerly made in duplicate or one copy for each party
and then the copies were laid together and indented with
some instrument so they would always fit together. The in-
denting which gave the writing its name is now done away
MEANING OF LEGAL TERMS. 309
Indictment. A written accusation against a persen of a
crime, preferred by a grand jury.
Indorsement. Writing one's name on the back of a
promissory note or other negotiable instrument.
Indorser. One who indorses.
Infant. One under the age of twenty-one years.
Infanticide. The murder of a new born infant.
Information. The instrument which contains the de-
positions of witnesses against the accused.
Infraction. The violation of a law or a contract.
Infringement. Trespassing upon the rights secured to
a person by a patent.
Inheritance. A perpetuity in lands to a man and his
heirs. The property which is inherited is also called an in-
Injunction. A prohibitory writ issued by a court of
equity to restrain one of the parties to a suit in equity from do-
ing an act which is deemed unjust or inequitable.
Insanity. Unsoundness of mind. ' In Medical Jurispru-
dence. The prolonged departure, without any adequate cause,
froni'the states of feeling and modes of thinking usual to the
individual in health.
Insolvency. The condition of. a person who from any
cause is unable to pay his debts.
Instrument. The writing which contains some agree-
ment, so called because it has been prepared as a memorial of
what has been agreed upon. The instrument is the evidence
of the agreement.
Insurance. A contract by which one party undertakes
for an agreed premium to indemnify another against loss on a
specified thing by specified perils.
Interest. In Contracts. A man's right of property in a
certain thing. In Debts. The compensation paid by the
borrower to the lender for the the use of money.
3IO THE LAW OF BUSINESS.
Interlineation. Writing between the lines.
Interpretation. The explanation of the meaning of
any signs used to convey ideas.
Intestate. One who, though competent to do so, has
made no will, or having made one, has made it null on ac-
count of defective form.
Invention. The act of finding out or devising some-
thing new, something which did not exist before.
Inventory. An enumeration in writing of the goods and
chattels, rights and credits of a testator or an intestate.
Issue. In the Law of Realty. All persons who have de-
scended from a common ancestor. In Pleading. A single,
certain and material point deduced by the pleadings of the
parties which is affirmed on one side and denied on the other.
Jeopardy. Peril; danger. The United States Constitu-
tion provides that a man shall not be put twice in jeopardy
for the same offense. A prisoner is in jeopardy when a trial
jury is sworn and impaneled.
Jettison or Jetsam. Goods which, thrown overboard
from a ship to save the rest of the cargo or passengers, sink.
Judgment. The conclusion of law upon facts found or
admitted by the parties, or upon default in the course of the