Legal Terminology For Dummies

Legal Phrases Dictionary


Legal English is a professional language. This means that a good command of ordinary English does not automatically makes you proficient in legal English. Bellow is one basic list of legal terminology.
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Legal Terminology List:


acquit: the act of freeing a person from the charge of an offense by means of a decision, verdict or other legal process; to discharge

action: a civil judicial proceeding whereby one party prosecutes another for a wrong done or for protection of a right or prevention of a wrong; requires service of process on adversary party or potentially adversary party

allegation: the assertion, declaration, or statement of a party to an action, made in a pleading, setting out what the party expects to prove

allege: to claim a fact is true, commonly in a complaint which is filed to commence a lawsuit, in an "affirmative defense" to a complaint, in a criminal charge of the commission of a crime, or any claim. 

answer: a paper submitted by a defendant in which he/she responds to and/or denies the allegations of the plaintiff
appeal: a proceeding to have a case examined by an appropriate higher court to see if a lower court's decision was made correctly according to law
argument: a reason given in proof or rebuttal
at issue: whenever the parties to a suit come to a point in the pleadings which is affirmed on one side and denied on the other, they are said to be "at issue"
bail: the security given (or posted) to ensure the future appearance of a defendant
brief: a written or printed document prepared by the lawyers on each side of a dispute and submitted to the court in support of their arguments - a brief includes the points of law which the lawyer wished to establish, the arguments the lawyer uses, and the legal authorities on which the lawyer rests his/her conclusions.
common law: the body of law which originated in England and upon which present day U.S. law is based
contract: a legally enforceable agreement between two or more persons or parties (oral or written)
cross- examination: questioning by a party or his attorney of an adverse party or a witness called by an adverse party
damages: Monetary compensation or indemnity for wrong or injury caused by the violation of a legal right. 
decision: the determination reached by a court in any judicial proceeding, which is the basis of the judgment
defendant: the party being sued or the party accused of committing the offense charged
deposition: sworn testimony of a witness
discovery (or disclosure):  is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party, through the law of civil procedure, can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices including requests for answers to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and depositions. 
disposition: the result of a judicial proceeding by withdrawal, settlement, order, judgment or sentence
evidence: a form of proof or probative matter legally presented at the trial of an issue by the acts of the parties and through witnesses, records, documents, concrete objects, etc., for the purpose of inducing belief in the minds of the court or the jury
fine: a sum imposed as punishment for an offense
hearing: a preliminary examination where evidence is taken for the purpose of determining an issue of fact and reaching a decision on the basis of that evidence
injunction: a court order for a party to stop doing or to start doing a specific act
jurisdiction: the geographical, subject matter, and monetary limitations of a court 
Personal jurisdiction- Directed to a specific person to impose a personal liability on him (usually the defendant). 
Subject matter jurisdiction- Topic of consideration, thing in dispute, right claimed by one party against another

liability: an obligation to do, to eventually do, or to refrain from doing something; money owed; or according to law one's responsibility for his/her conduct; or one's responsibility for causing an injury

material witness: person whose testimony on some issue has been judicially determined as relevant and substantial
motion: an oral or written request to the court made by a party for a ruling or order
order: an oral or written direction of a court or judge
negligence: conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm

party: Person having a direct interest in a legal matter, transaction or proceeding.

plaintiff: the party bringing a civil action
petition: a formal written request to a court, which initiates a special proceeding
pleadings: complaint or petition, answer, and reply
proceeding: the succession of events constituting the process by which judicial action is invoked and utilized pursuant to procedure
process: a legal means, such as a summons, used to subject a defendant in a lawsuit to the jurisdiction of the court; broadly, refers to all writs issued in the course of a legal proceeding
Relief  The relief sought in a lawsuit might, for example, be the return of property wrongfully taken by another, compensation for an injury in the form of damages, or enforcement of a contract.

sanction: a penalty or punishment provided as a means of enforcing obedience to a law, rule or code; also, an authorization
suit: A legal action or proceeding.
trial: the formal examination of a legal controversy in court so as to determine the issue
verdict: the determination of a jury on the facts
warrant: a written order directing the arrest of a person issued by an authority - warrants are "issued," "executed" or "canceled"
witness: one who testifies to what he/she has seen, heard, or otherwise observed



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