Glossary of Legal Terms

Welcome to our glossary of legal terms. This glossary is designed to provide clear and concise explanations of commonly used legal terms that you may encounter when dealing with legal issues. Whether you are a law student, legal professional, or just someone seeking to expand your knowledge of legal concepts, this glossary can be a valuable resource for you.

Our glossary covers a wide range of legal terms from various areas of law including criminal law, civil law, contract law, and property law, among others. Each entry is accompanied by a simple and easy-to-understand explanation to ensure that even those without a legal background can understand the terms.

We understand that legal jargon can be complex and overwhelming, which is why we have made every effort to make this glossary as accessible and user-friendly as possible. We hope that this glossary will serve as a helpful tool in your journey to better understand the legal system.


  1. Abandonment – When a person intentionally gives up or abandons their legal rights or interests in property or a legal claim.
  2. Adjudication – The legal process by which a court or administrative agency makes a final determination or ruling on a matter.
  3. Adverse possession – A legal concept that allows a person to acquire ownership of property by using it openly and continuously for a certain period of time, without the true owner’s permission.
  4. Affidavit – A written statement made under oath or affirmation, typically used as evidence in a legal proceeding.
  5. Agency – The legal relationship in which one person (the agent) is authorized to act on behalf of another person (the principal).
  6. Alimony – Court-ordered financial support paid by one spouse to the other spouse after a divorce or separation.
  7. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – A method of resolving legal disputes outside of court, such as through mediation or arbitration.
  8. Amicus curiae – Latin for “friend of the court,” referring to a person or organization that is not a party to a legal case but offers information or expertise to assist the court in making a decision.
  9. Antitrust – Laws designed to promote competition and prevent monopolies or unfair business practices.
  10. Appeal – A request for a higher court to review and potentially overturn a lower court’s decision.
  11. Appellate court – A court that reviews decisions made by lower courts.
  12. Arbitration – A form of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party hears evidence and makes a binding decision in a legal dispute.
  13. Arraignment – The formal reading of criminal charges in court, during which a defendant enters a plea.
  14. Arrest – The legal process of taking a person into custody and charging them with a crime.
  15. Article – A section of a legal document, such as a constitution or statute, that addresses a specific topic.


  1. Bail – Money or property that a defendant provides to the court as a guarantee that they will appear in court as required.
  2. Bankruptcy – The legal process by which a person or business seeks relief from debts they cannot repay.
  3. Battery – The intentional or reckless harmful or offensive touching of another person without their consent.
  4. Bench trial – A trial in which a judge, rather than a jury, decides the outcome.
  5. Beneficiary – A person who receives the benefits of a legal instrument, such as a trust or will.
  6. Beyond a reasonable doubt – The standard of proof in a criminal case, requiring the prosecution to prove the defendant’s guilt to a high degree of certainty.
  7. Bill of Rights – The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which protect individual rights and limit the power of the government.
  8. Breach of contract – When a party fails to fulfill their obligations under a contract without a valid excuse.


  1. Capital punishment – The legal sentence of death for a crime.
  2. Case law – The body of legal precedent created by courts through their decisions in legal cases.
  3. Cause of action – The legal basis for a lawsuit, including the facts and legal theories supporting the plaintiff’s claims.
  4. Certiorari – A writ issued by a higher court requesting that a lower court send up a case for review.
  5. Child custody – The legal determination of which parent will have physical and legal custody of a child after a divorce or separation.
  6. Civil law – The area of law that deals with private disputes between individuals, such as contract disputes or personal injury claims.
  7. Class action – A lawsuit brought by a group of people who have been harmed in the same way by the same defendant, seeking compensation or other relief as a group rather than individually.
  8. Common law – The body of law created by judicial decisions and customs rather than by statutes or codes.
  9. Community property – A legal regime for property ownership in which property acquired during a marriage is considered jointly owned by both spouses.
  10. Complaint – The initial legal document filed by a plaintiff to start a lawsuit, outlining the claims against the defendant.
  11. Conciliation – A method of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between the parties in an attempt to reach a settlement.
  12. Consideration – Something of value exchanged between parties to a contract, necessary for a valid contract to exist.
  13. Contempt of court – A behavior that disrespects or defies the authority or dignity of a court or judge, punishable by fines or imprisonment.
  14. Contract – A legally binding agreement between two or more parties, outlining their obligations and expectations.
  15. Contributory negligence – A legal defense that reduces or eliminates a plaintiff’s recovery in a personal injury lawsuit, based on their own negligence contributing to their injuries.
  16. Conviction – The legal finding of guilt in a criminal case, often followed by a sentence.


  1. Damages – Monetary compensation awarded to a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit for harm or injury caused by the defendant’s actions.
  2. Deed – A legal document that transfers ownership of real property from one party to another.
  3. Defendant – The party being sued in a civil case, or the party accused of a crime in a criminal case.
  4. Discovery – The process by which parties in a lawsuit obtain evidence and information from each other.
  5. Divorce – The legal process of ending a marriage, usually involving issues such as property division, child custody, and spousal support.
  6. Due process – The legal principle that government must follow fair and consistent procedures in depriving a person of life, liberty, or property.
  7. Duress – Unlawful pressure or coercion that forces a person to do something they would not otherwise do, such as entering into a contract or confessing to a crime.


  1. Easement – The legal right to use another person’s property for a specific purpose, such as accessing a public road or maintaining a utility line.
  2. Emancipation – The legal process by which a minor is granted the rights and responsibilities of an adult, often including the ability to enter into contracts and make their own decisions.
  3. Entitlement – A government benefit or right to which an individual or group is legally entitled, such as Social Security or Medicare.
  4. Equity – The value of property minus any liens or debts, often used in the context of property division in a divorce.
  5. Escrow – A financial arrangement in which a neutral third party holds funds or property on behalf of two other parties until certain conditions are met.


  1. Fair use – A legal doctrine that allows limited use of copyrighted material without the owner’s permission, for purposes such as criticism, commentary, or education.
  2. Family law – The area of law that deals with family-related legal issues, such as divorce, child custody, and adoption.
  3. Felony – A serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.
  4. Fiduciary – A person or entity that is entrusted with managing another person’s assets or affairs, and owes a legal duty to act in the best interests of the person or entity they represent.
  5. Foreclosure – The legal process by which a lender repossesses and sells a borrower’s property to recover unpaid debts.
  6. Forum non conveniens – A legal doctrine that allows a court to dismiss a case when it is more appropriate for another court to hear it.


  1. Garnishment – A legal process by which a creditor can collect a debt by seizing a portion of the debtor’s wages, bank accounts, or other assets.
  2. Grand jury – A group of citizens who are convened by a prosecutor to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring criminal charges against a suspect.


  1. Habeas corpus – A legal action that allows a person who is imprisoned or detained to challenge the legality of their confinement and seek release.
  2. Hearing – A legal proceeding in which evidence and arguments are presented to a judge or administrative agency to make a decision.
  3. Hostile witness – A witness who is antagonistic to the party calling them, and is often uncooperative or evasive in their testimony.


  1. Impeachment – The process by which a government official, such as the president or a judge, can be removed from office for misconduct or abuse of power.
  2. Injunction – A court order that prohibits a person or entity from engaging in a particular activity, or requires them to take a certain action.
  3. Insanity defense – A legal defense that argues a defendant is not guilty by reason of mental illness or defect.


  1. Joint and several liability – A legal doctrine that allows multiple defendants in a lawsuit to be held jointly responsible for damages, meaning they are each liable for the full amount of the damages even if one defendant is unable to pay.


  1. Larceny – The crime of taking someone else’s property without their consent, with the intent to deprive them of it permanently.
  2. Law – A system of rules and principles that governs behavior in a society, enforced by the government and subject to change over time.
  3. Lawsuit – A legal action brought by one party against another in a court of law, seeking redress for harm or injury.
  4. Lien – A legal claim or encumbrance on property, usually for the purpose of securing payment of a debt.
  5. Limited liability – A legal principle that limits the personal liability of owners or shareholders of a business to the amount of their investment.
  6. Litigation – The process of bringing or defending a lawsuit in court.


  1. Malpractice – Professional negligence or misconduct by a doctor, lawyer, or other professional that causes harm to a client or patient.
  2. Mediation – A method of alternative dispute resolution in which a neutral third party facilitates communication between the parties in an attempt to reach a settlement.
  3. Misdemeanor – A less serious crime that is punishable by imprisonment for less than one year or a fine.


  1. Negligence – Failure to exercise reasonable care that results in harm or injury to another person, often the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.
  2. No-fault insurance – A type of auto insurance that pays benefits to policyholders regardless of who caused the accident, in exchange for limiting their ability to sue other drivers for damages.


  1. Oath – A solemn declaration or promise to tell the truth, often required of witnesses in a legal proceeding.
  2. Offer – A proposal by one party to enter into a contract with another, specifying the terms and conditions of the contract.


  1. Parole – The conditional release of a prisoner before the end of their sentence, subject to certain conditions and supervision by a parole officer.
  2. Patent – A legal right granted by the government to an inventor, giving them exclusive control over the production and sale of their invention for a certain period of time.
  3. Plaintiff – The party bringing a lawsuit against another in a civil case.
  4. Plea bargain – A negotiation between a defendant and prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest to a lesser charge or sentence in exchange for a concession from the prosecutor, such as a reduced sentence or dropped charges.
  5. Power of attorney – A legal document that gives one person the authority to act on behalf of another person in certain legal and financial matters.
  6. Precedent – A legal decision or principle established by a higher court that serves as a guide for lower courts in similar cases.
  7. Probate – The legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, including distributing their assets and paying their debts.
  8. Pro bono – Legal services provided for free or at a reduced cost to clients who cannot afford to pay.
  9. Promissory note – A written promise to pay a specific amount of money by a certain date, often used in loan agreements.
  10. Property law – The area of law that deals with the rights and obligations of property owners, including ownership, use, and transfer of property.


  1. Quash – To void or annul a legal proceeding or order, often used to refer to the dismissal of a lawsuit.


  1. Real estate law – The area of law that deals with the ownership, use, and transfer of real property, including land and buildings.
  2. Reasonable doubt – The legal standard used in criminal trials, requiring that the prosecution prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
  3. Receiver – A person appointed by a court to manage and distribute the assets of a bankrupt or insolvent entity.
  4. Restitution – The payment of money or other compensation to a victim of a crime or civil wrong by the offender or wrongdoer.
  5. Restraining order – A court order that prohibits a person from contacting, approaching, or harassing another person, often used in cases of domestic violence or stalking.
  6. Retainer – A fee paid to a lawyer or other professional in advance for their services, often used to secure their availability for a particular project or case.


  1. Statute – A law enacted by a legislative body, such as a state or federal government.
  2. Subpoena – A legal order requiring a person to appear in court or produce evidence for a legal proceeding.
  3. Summons – A legal notice that informs a person that a lawsuit has been filed against them and requires them to respond or appear in court.
  4. Slander – The spoken or oral communication of a false statement that harms a person’s reputation or character.
  5. Statute of limitations – The legal deadline for bringing a lawsuit, often determined by the type of case and the state in which it is filed.


  1. Torts – Civil wrongs that cause harm or injury to another person, often the basis for a personal injury lawsuit.
  2. Trial – A legal proceeding in which evidence and arguments are presented to a judge or jury to determine the outcome of a case.
  3. Trust – A legal arrangement in which one person or entity holds property for the benefit of another, often used for estate planning or to protect assets from creditors.
  4. Trustee – A person or entity appointed to manage and distribute assets held in a trust.
  5. Trademark – A legal right granted by the government to protect the use of a distinctive symbol, word, or phrase used to identify a product or service.


  1. Unlawful detainer – A legal action brought by a landlord to evict a tenant who has remained in possession of the property after the lease has expired or been terminated.
  2. Usury – The illegal practice of charging excessive interest rates on loans.


  1. Venue – The geographic location where a legal proceeding is held, often determined by the location of the parties involved or where the events giving rise to the lawsuit occurred.
  2. Vicarious liability – A legal doctrine that holds one person or entity responsible for the actions of another person or entity, often used in cases of employer liability for the actions of their employees.


  1. Will – A legal document that sets forth a person’s wishes for the distribution of their assets after death.
  2. Witness – A person who testifies under oath in a legal proceeding, providing information about events or facts relevant to the case.
  3. Writ – A legal order issued by a court, often used to compel a person or entity to take a certain action or refrain from taking a certain action.


  1. Yellow dog contract – A contract in which an employee agrees not to join a union as a condition of employment. Such contracts are generally unenforceable under federal labor law.


  1. Zoning – The process by which local governments regulate the use of land within their jurisdiction.