Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

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					A Plain English Guide
to Legal Terms

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A Plain English Guide
to Legal Terms

A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

Published by

National Adult Literacy Agency
76 Lower Gardiner Street,
Dublin 1.

© 2003 National Adult Literacy Agency

The copyright in this guide belongs to the
National Adult Literacy Agency.

ISBN 1-871737-29-x

The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the
views of the National Adult Literacy Agency.
 The language used in law is changing. There are many legal
 phrases that non-lawyers don’t understand. This guide is
 intended to help non-lawyers understand legal phrases and
 to give lawyers guidance in explaining the legal phrases they
 use. Although it comprises over 60 pages with over 1,400
 words explained, this is not a complete dictionary of legal
 terms in use in Ireland.
 The explanations in this guide are not intended to be
 alternatives. Lawyers will continue to use legal phrases when
 necessary. This publication is designed to explain ideas and
 concepts rather than to give legal definitions.
 We invite your suggestions for additions. Please e-mail us at with your ideas.
 The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) would like to
 thank Patrick O’Connor, B.C.L., LL.B., Solicitor of Swinford,
 County Mayo who edited the legal content of the guide.
 He was President of the Law Society of Ireland in 1999.
 NALA would also like to thank:
 G The Plain English Campaign in the UK for providing the
   bulk of the initial information from their ‘A to Z of legal
   terms in plain English’.
 G Kieron Wood for making available ‘Glossary of legal terms’

   from his website ( as a
   reference point from his website.
 G The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for their

   ‘Glossary of Legal terms’.

A Plain English Guide
to Legal Terms

A                                      Abrogation
                                       Annulment; repeal (of a law)
Ab initio*
From the beginning.
                                       When a person fails to present
Abandonment                            themselves before the court
Giving up a legal right.               when required.

Abatement                              Absolute
G   Cancelling a writ or action;       Complete and unconditional.
G   stopping a nuisance;
                                       Absolute owner
    reducing the payments to
    creditors in proportion if         The only owner of property
    there is not enough money to       Absolute privilege
    pay them in full; or
                                       A defence which can be used in
    reducing the gifts in a will, in
                                       a case of defamation if the
    proportion, when there is not
                                       statement from which the
    enough money to pay them in
                                       defamation arose was: made in
                                       either house of the Oireachtas
Abduction                              (Dáil or Seanad) in fair and
Taking someone away by force.          accurate news reporting of
                                       court proceedings; or made
Abovementioned                         during court proceedings.
Describing something which
                                       Abstract of title
has been referred to before in
the document.                          A document summarising the
                                       title deeds to a property.

                 Please note:
                 Words marked * are Latin in origin
                 Words marked † are French in origin

    A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

    Abuse of process                       Accused
    When court proceedings are             The person charged with a
    brought against a person               criminal offence.
    without any good reason and
    with malice.                           Acknowledgement
                                           Admitting that someone has a
    Abuttals                               claim or admitting that a debt
    The parts of the boundaries of         exists.
    a piece of land which touch
    land alongside.                        Acquiescence
                                           Action or inaction which legally
    Acceptance                             binds someone.
    When an offer is accepted
    unconditionally a legally              Acquit
    binding agreement is created.          When a court lets a person go
                                           without any penalty. If a court
    Acceptance of service                  decides that a person is not
    When a solicitor accepts court         guilty of a crime, or the case
    proceedings on behalf of a client.     has not been proved, it will
                                           acquit the person.
    The organisation which will pay        Acquittal
    the cheque or bill of exchange         The court's decision that a
    it has accepted.                       person is innocent of the crime
                                           they were charged with.
    Someone who encourages or              Act of bankruptcy
    helps another person to commit         An act which, if carried out by
    a crime.                               a person with debts, could have
                                           led to bankruptcy
    Accomplice                             proceedings against that
    Someone who helps another              person.
    person to commit a crime.
                                           Act of God
    Accounts                               An event resulting from natural
    The record of spending and             causes without human
    financial situation.                   intervention (such as floods or
    Accumulation                           earthquakes).
    Reinvesting income generated           Action
    by a fund back into the fund.          Proceedings in a civil court.

                                                             Active trust

Active trust                         Additional voluntary
A trust where the trustees have      contribution (AVC)
other responsibilities rather        Extra money people in
than to just let the beneficiaries   occupational pension schemes
have the trust's assets when         can pay in to increase their
they ask for them.                   pension benefits.
Actual loss                          Ademption
An insurance term which              When a gift in a will cannot be
means that the insured item no       made because the item no
longer exists.                       longer exists.
Actuary                              Adjourned sine die
An expert on pension scheme          When a court case has no date
assets and liabilities, life         fixed for it to continue.
expectancy and probabilities
(the likelihood of things            Adjournment
happening) for insurance             Postponing a court hearing.
purposes.                            Adjudge
Actus reus*                          To give an official judgement
An act which is illegal,             about something.

Ad hoc*                              Adjudication
For a particular purpose.            Formal judgment or decision of
                                     a court.
Ad idem*
In agreement.                        Administrative law
                                     Law which applies to hearings
Ad infinitum*                        before quasi-judicial or
Endlessly or forever.                administrative tribunals.
Ad interim*                          Administrator
For the time being.                  Someone who has been
                                     appointed to manage the estate
Ad valorem*                          of someone who has died
In proportion to the value.          without leaving a will.
                                     Admissibility of evidence
                                     Evidence which can be
                                     presented in court.

    A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

    Admission                              Advocate
    One side in a case agreeing            The lawyer who speaks in court
    that something the other side          for a client.
    has alleged is true.
    Admonition                             A written statement which is
    Reprimanding of a defendant            sworn to be true by the person
    by a judge.                            signing it.
    Adoption                               Affirm
    The system which people use to         Solemnly promise to tell the
    become parents even though             truth in court or in an affidavit.
    they are not the child's natural
    parents.                               Affirmation
                                           Solemnly promising to tell the
    Adoptive child                         truth when giving evidence.
    A child who has been legally
    adopted.                               Affray
                                           Fighting unlawfully.
    Adoptive parent
    A person who has legally               Aforementioned
    adopted a child.                       Describing something referred
                                           to previously in a document.
    Alternative dispute resolution         Aforesaid
    such as arbitration, mediation         Describing something which
    and conciliation.                      has been said or referred to
                                           before in a document.
    Adverse possession
    Occupying of land, without             Age of consent
    legal title for long enough –          The age when a girl can
    normally 12 years – to be              consent to have sexual
    recognized as the legal owner          intercourse.
    ("squatter's rights").                 Agency
    Adverse witness                        The relationship between a
    A witness who gives evidence           principal and an agent.
    which damages the case of the          Agent
    side which asked the witness to
    testify for them.                      Person with power to contract
                                           or act on behalf of others.

                                                     Aggravated assault

Aggravated assault                All that
A serious type of assault.        Words used in a conveyance to
                                  introduce the description of the
Aggravated damages                property which is being
Exceptional damages awarded       transferred.
by a court where a defendant's
behaviour towards the plaintiff   Allegation
or victim has been particularly   An unproved statement
humiliating, malicious or         declaring that something has
vindictive.                       happened.
Aider and abettor                 Alleviate
One who advises or encourages     To lessen.
the commission of a crime.
                                  Allocation rate
Aiding and abetting               The proportion of money left to
Helping someone to commit a       be invested after charges have
crime.                            been taken off when money is
                                  paid into a fund.
The space in the atmosphere       Allotment
directly above a piece of land.   Shares allocated to a buyer.
Alias                             Alternate director
A false name.                     A person appointed by a
                                  director to take the director's
Alien                             place.
Someone from a foreign
country.                          Alternative dispute
Alienation                        Method by which disputes are
Transferring the ownership of     resolved, other than through
property from one person to       litigation, usually by mediation
another.                          or arbitration.
All and sundry                    Alternative verdict
Everybody.                        A person being found guilty of
                                  a less serious crime than the
                                  one they were charged with.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Amalgamation                           Annuitant
     Two or more companies                  The person who gets paid a
     combining.                             yearly amount.
     Ambiguity                              Annuity
     Capability of more than one            An amount paid out every year
     meaning.                               to someone.
     Ambulatory will                        Annul
     A will which can be revoked or         Cancel.
     changed while the person who
     made it is still living.               Ante*
     Amicus curiae*
     Advisor to the court on a point        Antecedents
     of law who is appointed by the         Details about the past of a
     court to represent a person.           defendant or a person.

     Amnesty                                Antedate
     Not punishing a person for an          A date before a document was
     offence committed.                     drawn up.

     Ancient lights                         Antenuptial agreement
     The right not to have the light        A legal agreement between two
     you receive from a neighbour's         people who are to get married.
     land blocked.                          Anton Piller order
     Annual accounts                        An order by the Court which
     The summary of financial               gives the applicant permission
     transactions during the year.          to search the defendant's
                                            premises for evidence, inspect
     Annual general meeting                 it and take it away.
     The yearly meeting of the
     members of an organisation.            Appeal
                                            Challenge to a court decision in
     Annual return                          a higher court.
     A return which must be sent
     by a company to the Registrar          Appearance
     of Companies each year.                The act of replying to a
                                            summons or turning up in
                                            court and accepting its
                                            jurisdiction to proceedings.


Appellant                             Arraignment
The person who is appealing to        Procedure for calling accused
a court against a decision of a       before court to answer charges
lower court.                          and to say whether he or she is
                                      guilty or not guilty.
Appellate jurisdiction
The authority a court has to          Arrears
hear an appeal against a              Accumulated debt which has
decision made by a lower court.       not been paid on the due date.
Applicant                             Arrest
The person asking a court to do       To seize someone suspected of
something.                            committing a crime and take
                                      them into custody.
The person who gets the benefit       Arson
of the use of a power of              Setting fire to something to
appointment.                          cause damage to it.
Appointor                             Articles
The person who uses a power           The clauses in a document.
of appointment.
                                      Articles of association
Apportionment                         The document which set out a
Division of rights and liabilities.   company's rules.
Appurtenances                         Assault
Minor rights in land.                 Touching – or threatened
                                      touching – of another person
Arbitrage                             without that person's consent.
Borrowing money at a low rate
of interest to lend out again at      Assent
a higher rate.                        A document used by personal
                                      representatives to transfer
Arbitration                           property to a beneficiary.
Settling a dispute by using a
referee.                              Asset
                                      Something owned
Referee who settles a dispute         Assign
without the need to use the           Transfer.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Assignment                             Attorney
     The formal transfer of the             A person appointed to act for
     rights to something.                   another person.
     Assurance                              Attorney General
     Insurance cover for an event           Legal adviser to the
     which will definitely happen           Government.
     such as death.
                                            Audi Alteram Partem*
     Assure                                 Hear the other side.
     Transfer the ownership of
     something.                             Audit
                                            An independent examination of
     Assured                                records and financial
     The person whose life is               statements.
     insured or who is entitled to
     receive the benefit from the           Auditor's report
     assurance cover.                       A report and opinion by an
                                            independent person or firm on
     Attachment and committal               financial records.
     Bringing a person before court
     with threat of imprisonment for        Auterfois convict*
     failure to obey the court’s            Formerly convicted. One may
     order.                                 not be convicted twice for the
                                            same offence.
     Attachment of earnings
     A court order that deductions          Authentication
     be made from a person's                Verification of document for
     earnings.                              legal purposes.

     Attachment                             Authorised investments
     Procedure by which judgement           Investments in which a trustee
     on property maybe enforced.            is permitted to invest trust
     To witness a signature on a            Authorised share capital
     document.                              The highest amount of share
                                            capital that a company can
     Attestation                            issue.
     Authentication of an act or
     document by a witness.


Autopsy                             Banker's draft
An examination of a dead body       A cheque drawn by a bank on
to find the cause of death.         itself.
Averment                            Bankrupt
Positive factual allegation in an   Someone who has had a
affidavit.                          bankruptcy order made
                                    concerning him.

B                                   Bankruptcy order
                                    An order that a court issues
Bail                                against someone if they cannot
To pay, or promise to pay, an       pay their debts when they are
amount of money so that an          due to be paid.
accused person is not put in
prison before the trial.            Bankruptcy search
                                    A document which states
Bailee                              whether or not someone is
A person looking after items to     bankrupt.
keep them safe for the owner.
Bailiff                             The collective term for
An officer of the court who         barristers. When a person
carries out the court's orders.     becomes a barrister it is called
Bailiwick                           'being called to the bar'.
The area over which a bailiff       Bare trust
has jurisdiction.                   A trust which holds property
Bailment                            on behalf of a person until they
                                    ask for it back.
Transferring possession of
goods from the owner to             Bare trustee
someone else.                       Someone who holds property
Bailor                              on behalf of another person
                                    until asked to return it.
The owner of goods which are
in the possession of another        Bargain and sale
person for safekeeping.             A contract to sell any property
Balance sheet                       or investment in land that a
                                    person owns.
Summary of a financial

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Barrister                              Beneficiary
     A member of one branch of the          Someone who benefits from a
     legal profession who advises           will, a trust or a life insurance
     clients, generally works in the        policy.
     courts, and who receives
     instructions from a solicitor.         Bequeath
     Barristers do not normally deal        To give something to a person
     with members of the public.            in a will.

     Barter                                 Bequest
     A way of paying for things by          Something given in a will.
     exchanging goods instead of            Bigamy
     using money.
                                            The offence committed by
     Battery                                someone who is already
     Using physical force on                married but still goes through a
     someone either intentionally or        marriage ceremony with
     without their agreement.               someone else.

     Bearer                                 Bill of costs
     Person who has a document in           The account a solicitor sends to
     their possession.                      a client giving details of any
                                            outlay the solicitor has paid on
     Bench                                  behalf of the client, the fee
     The name for the judges in a           charged and expenses.
                                            Bill of exchange
     Bench warrant                          A signed written order
     A warrant issued by a court for        instructing the person to whom
     the arrest of an accused person        it is addressed to pay an
     who has failed to attend court.        amount of money to someone.
                                            A cheque is a type of bill of
     Beneficial interest                    exchange.
     Belonging to a person even
     though someone else is the             Bill of lading
     legal owner.                           A document recording the
                                            goods a ship carries and the
     Beneficial owner                       terms the goods are carried
     The actual owner of property.          under.

                                                           Bill of sale

Bill of sale                      Bonded goods
A document which transfers        Goods for which a bond has
ownership of goods from one       been paid to the Revenue
person to another.                Commissioners (Customs and
                                  Excise) as security for the duty
Binding effect                    owed on the goods.
An agreement that must be
kept to.                          Bonded warehouse
                                  A warehouse approved by The
Binding over                      Revenue Commissioners
An order by a court in a          (Customs and Excise) for
criminal case.                    storing goods imported into the
Binding precedent                 country until the duty on them
                                  has been paid or the goods
Following the decisions made      have been exported to another
by higher courts.                 country.
Blackmail                         Bonus shares
Demanding payment from a          Free shares that a company
person in return for not          offers to its shareholders in
revealing something shameful      proportion to their existing
about them.                       shareholdings.
Bodily harm                       Book value
Physical injury or pain.          The value of a fixed asset, such
Bona fide*                        as a building or machine, as
                                  recorded in the accounts.
In good faith.
Bona vacantia*                    Bought note
                                  A document showing details of
Goods or an estate belonging to
                                  a purchase by someone for a
                                  third party. Stockbrokers
Bond                              produce bought notes for their
A written promise to repay a      clients.
debt at an agreed time and to     Breach of contract
pay an agreed rate of interest
                                  Failing to carry out a duty
on the debt.
                                  under a contract.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Breach of duty                         Bye-law or bylaw
     Failing to carry out something         A law made by a local authority
     which is required by law or            or an organisation which has
     doing something the law                power to do so.
     Breach of trust                        C
     When a trustee does something
     which is against the trust's
     rules or fails to do something         Asking people to pay for new
     required by the trust's rules.         shares they have applied for.

     Break clause                           Called-up capital
     A clause in a contract which           All the shares called by a
     allows it to be ended.                 company when it issues
     A document prepared by a
                                            Canon law
     solicitor which contains the           The name for the rules used for
     instructions for the barrister to      governing a Christian church.
     follow when acting in court.           Capacity
     Building preservation notice           Someone's ability to enter into
     A notice that a building is            a legal agreement.
     listed.                                Capital allowances
     Burden of proof                        Allowances that you can
     A rule of evidence that requires       sometimes claim when you buy
     a party to a court action to           long-term assets to use in your
     prove something,                       business.
     otherwise the contrary will be         Capital gain
     assumed by the court. For
                                            The profit you make if you sell
     example, in criminal trials, the
                                            or dispose of an asset for more
     prosecution has the burden of
                                            than it cost you.
     proving the accused guilty
     beyond a reasonable doubt.             Capital gains tax
     Burglary                               A tax charged on a capital gain.
     Entering a building without            Capital punishment
     permission with the intention          Punishing someone for a crime
     of stealing or doing damage.           by killing them.

                                                 Capital redemption reserve

Capital redemption reserve         Caution
A company has this reserve in      A warning given by a Garda to
its financial records if any of    a suspected criminal when he
the shares it has issued are       is arrested; a document sent to
cancelled.                         the Land Registry by someone
                                   who may have a right over
Care order                         land, which requests that no
An order by a court instructing    dealings in the land are
a local authority to care for a    registered until the person with
child.                             the right has been told.
Careless driving                   Caveat*
Driving a car without              A formal warning.
consideration for other people.
                                   Caveat emptor*
Cartel                             'Buyer beware'.
An agreement between
businesses to restrict             Central Criminal Court
competition and keep prices        The High Court sitting to deal
high.                              with serious criminal offences
                                   such as rape and murder.
Case law
Law that is based on the           Certificate of incorporation
results of previous court cases.   A certificate stating that a
                                   company has been
Case stated                        incorporated.
The written statement setting
out the facts of a case.           Certificate of origin
                                   A certificate stating in which
Causation                          country the goods being
One thing being done causing       imported were made.
something else to happen.
Cause of action                    An order by the High Court
The reason someone is entitled     that a case should be reviewed.
to sue someone else.
                                   Challenge for cause
                                   When the defence objects to a
                                   juror and says why it objects.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Challenge to a jury                    Charges clause
     When either side in a case             A clause which appears in
     objects to the people who have         some contracts and sets out
     been selected to serve on the          who should pay for certain
     jury before they are sworn in.         items.
     Challenge without cause                Charging clause
     When a person objects to a             Trustees can charge the trust
     juror but does not say why.            for their services if there is a
                                            charging clause.
     Judge's personal rooms where           Charging order
     cases may be heard in private          A court judgement which a
     or “in camera”.                        creditor may get against the
                                            person or organisation which
     Charge                                 owes the money giving the
     Formally accuse someone of             creditor security over the
     committing a crime; Use                debtor's property for repayment
     property as security for a debt        of the debt.
     (such as a mortgage); or a
     direction given by a judge to          Charity
     tell the jury what they must do.       An organisation set up to do
                                            good for the community.
     Charge certificate
     A certificate which the Land           Chattel
     Registry issues to the lender          Any property except freehold
     who has lent money on the              land.
     security of registered land.
                                            Chattels personal
     Charge sheet                           The name for goods which can
     The document on which a                be touched such as watches,
     garda records details of the           clothes and furniture.
     accusation against a suspect.
     Chargeable event                       Moveable property.
     An event that may create a tax
     liability.                             Cheat
                                            A person who fails to send tax
     Chargeable gain                        returns to the tax Revenue
     A gain on which capital gains          Commissioners or fails to pay
     tax is payable.                        the tax owing.


Cheque                             Circuit Court
A written order addressed to a     Court above the District Court
bank instructing the bank to       and below the High Court, with
pay an amount of money to the      power to award damages up to
person or organisation named       k38,000 (as at September 2003)
on the cheque.                     and deal with most criminal
Cheque card
A card issued by a bank to a       Circuit judge
customer.                          A judge who is in charge of
                                   cases in the Circuit Court.
Child abuse
Molestation or ill-treatment       Circumstantial evidence
suffered by a child.               Evidence which suggests a fact
                                   but does not prove the fact is
Child Support Maintenance          true.
The amount of maintenance
the parent not living with their   Citation
child must pay.                    Quoting from a completed case
                                   to support an argument; or a
Child                              notice sent out by someone
Person under 18.                   wanting grant of probate or
Children in care                   letters of administration asking
                                   people to come forward if they
Children looked after by a local   object to it.
                                   Citizen's arrest
                                   An arrest by someone who is
An item of property.               not a Garda. The offence must
Chose in action                    be in the course of being
                                   committed or have already
A right such as a patent, or a
                                   been committed when the
right to recover a debt.
                                   arrest is made.
Chose in possession
                                   Civil court
An object which physically
                                   A court which does not hear
exists, such as furniture.
                                   criminal cases.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Claim                                  Codicil
     Apply for a right; demand a            Amendment to or addition of
     remedy; or an application for          an existing will.
     something such as a right.
                                            Codifying statute
     Claimant                               A statute used to bring together
     The person making a claim.             all the law on a particular
     Class action
     Legal action taken by a number         Coercion
     of different persons where the         A defence that a crime was
     facts and the defendants are           committed because the person
     similar.                               accused was forced to do it.
     Clause                                 Cognisance
     A section in a contract.               Notice.
     Clayton's Case                         Collateral
     This case established a                Extra security for a debt.
     presumption that money
     withdrawn from an account is           Collusion
     presumed to be debited against         Illegal and usually secret
     the money first deposited “first       agreement between two or more
     in, first out”.                        people to deceive a court or
                                            defraud another person.
     Clearing bank
     One of several major banks             Commissioner for Oaths
     which work together to                 A person appointed by the
     exchange and pay for cheques           Chief Justice to administer the
     which their customers have             swearing of oaths.
     written.                               Committal for sentence
     Close company                          When judges have found
     A company controlled by a few          someone guilty of a crime but
     people or by its directors.            they think their sentencing
                                            powers are not enough.
     Closing order
     An order prohibiting the use of
     a licenced premises when the
     owner has been convicted of
     certain crimes.

                                                       Committal for trial

Committal for trial                 Common seal
When a judge looks at the           The seal companies use to
evidence in a case and then         validate important company
sends the case to be heard in       documents.
the Court.
Committal order                     Closely related people who die
An order used to send someone       at the same time and it is
to prison for contempt of court.    unclear which of them died first.
Committal proceedings               Community service order
A court hearing where a             An order to do work in the
District Judge decides if there     community without pay.
is enough evidence of a serious
crime to justify a trial by jury.   Company secretary
                                    A person appointed by the
Committee of inspection             directors of a company who is
A committee appointed from          responsible for making sure
the creditors of a company in       that the company complies
liquidation to oversee the          with the Companies Acts.
liquidator's work.
Common duty of care                 Legal entity which permits a
The duty of the occupier of         group of shareholders to create
premises or land to take            an organization to pursue set
reasonable care of visitors to      objectives.
make sure that they are kept
safe.                               Compensation
                                    Money paid to make up for
Common law                          damage, injury or loss caused.
Judge made law which has
developed over centuries, also      Compensation for loss of
referred to as “unwritten law”.     office
Common law (as practised in         Compensation an employer
Ireland, England and the USA)       pays to an employee whose
is often contrasted with civil      contract has been ended.
law systems (as in France or        Compensation order
Germany) where laws are set
down in a written code.             An order by a court to a
                                    criminal to compensate the
                                    victim of the crime.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Completion                             Condition
     Transferring property in               A fundamental part of an
     exchange for payment.                  agreement.
     Compos Mentis*                         Condition precedent
     Of sound mind.                         Something which must happen
                                            before an agreement starts.
     Composition with creditors
     An arrangement between a               Condition subsequent
     debtor and the creditors.              Something which may happen
                                            in the future.
     Compulsory purchase
     Taking land when it is needed          Conditional agreement
     for a public project, such as          An agreement which depends
     roads or housing.                      on a certain thing happening in
                                            the future.
     Compulsory winding up
     The liquidation of a company           Conditional discharge
     by order of the court.                 A court may decide not to
                                            punish a criminal immediately
     Concealment                            for an offence and may
     Failure to disclose information        conditionally discharge the
     which the other side would             criminal instead.
     need to consider when deciding
     whether or not to go ahead             Conditional sale agreement
     with a transaction.                    An agreement by which the
                                            seller remains the owner of the
     Concealment of securities              goods until all the instalments
     Hiding or destroying a document        have been paid and all other
     to gain benefit for yourself or        conditions have been met.
     cause other people loss of benefit.
                                            Consecutive sentence
     Conclusive evidence                    When someone is sentenced for
     Evidence which cannot be               different crimes and the
     disputed.                              sentences have to be served
     Concurrent sentence                    one after another.
     When someone is sentenced for          Consent
     different crimes and the               To agree to something.
     sentences are to be served at
     the same time.

                                                         Consent Order

Consent Order                     Constructive trust
Court order agreed between        Trust imposed by a court in
both sides.                       certain circumstances
                                  regardless of the intention of
Consideration                     the parties involved.
The price or value.
Consign                           Deliberate disregard of a court
To leave property in the          order.
custody of another.
                                  Consumer credit agreement
Consignee                         An agreement by a creditor to
The person goods have been        provide credit to a consumer.
sent to.
Consignor                         Existing at the same time
The person who sent the goods.
                                  Contempt of Court
Conspiracy                        Disobeying a court order;
Combinations of persons for an    abusing a judge during a court
unlawful purpose.                 case; or interfering in the
Construction                      administration of justice.
Legal process of interpreting a   Contemptuous damages
phrase or document.               A small amount of damages.
Constructive                      Contingency fee
Describing something which        The claimant's lawyer gets paid
may not be set out in the law     the fee only if the case is won.
but will nevertheless be
considered to exist.              Contingent legacy
                                  A gift in a will which will only
Constructive dismissal            be made if certain conditions
Because the employer has          are met.
broken fundamental terms of
the contract of employment the    Contract
employee has been forced to       An agreement between two or
resign.                           more people to do or not to do
Constructive notice
Presuming something is

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Contract for services                  Copyright
     A contract under which                 A legal right which stops things
     materials and services are             being copied without
     provided.                              permission.
     Contract of exchange                   Coroner
     A contract to exchange goods           A judicial person who
     or property without money              investigates the cause of death
     being involved.                        when a person has suffered a
                                            sudden, violent or suspicious
     Contract of service                    death.
     The contract between employer
     and employee.                          Corporate body
                                            (or corporation)
     Contributory negligence                A group of people acting
     Ones own carelessness                  together such as a club.
     contributing to the damage
     done to you or your property.          Corporation tax
                                            A tax which companies pay.
     Exchanging one sort of                 Corpus*
     property for another or acting         A body.
     unlawfully to deprive someone
     of their ownership of goods.           Corpus delicti*
                                            The body of a person who has
     Convey                                 been killed unlawfully; or the
     Transfer.                              facts which make up an
     The name of the document               Costs
     which transfers the ownership          The legal expenses of an action,
     of land.                               such as lawyers' fees, witness
                                            expenses and other fees paid
     Conveyancing                           out in bringing the matter to
     Carrying out all the actions           court.
     needed to transfer the
     ownership of a piece of land.          Counsel
                                            An advocate – usually a
     Conviction                             barrister or a solicitor.
     Being found guilty of a criminal


Counterclaim                      Criminal damage
Making a claim in court against   The criminal offence of causing
someone who has already made      damage to someone else's
a claim against you.              property either recklessly or
Something that is forged or       Criminal responsibility
copied with the intention of      When someone reaches the age
deceiving.                        when the law says they are
                                  able to commit a criminal
Counterpart                       offence they have reached the
An exact copy of a document.      age of criminal responsibility.
Coupon                            Cross-examine
A dated piece of paper attached   To question a witness for the
to a bond.                        other side.
Court of Appeal                   Culpa*
A court which hears appeals       A fault.
against the decisions of other
courts.                           Cum dividend
                                  With dividend.
A legally binding promise.        Curfew
                                  Ordering someone to stay at a
Creditor                          named place at stated times of
A person you owe money, goods     the day or night.
or services to.
Creditors' voluntary              Land around a dwelling house
winding up                        used by the occupants for their
If a company is insolvent         enjoyment or work.
(cannot pay its debts when they
are due for payment) the          Customs duties
members can pass a special        Duties which are charged on
resolution to have the company    imports of goods.
wound up (liquidated).
Act or omission forbidden by
criminal law.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     D                                      Debt securities
                                            Debts which can be bought and
     Damages                                sold.
     Financial compensation
     ordered by a court to offset
     losses or suffering caused by          Person who owes money, goods
     another person's action or             or services to a creditor.
     inaction.                              Deceit
     Dangerous driving                      When one person deliberately
     A standard of driving which            misleads a second person with
     falls far below that of a careful,     a statement which causes the
     competent driver and it would          second person to do something
     be obvious to such a driver            that causes them damage.
     that it was dangerous to drive         Decree
     that way.
                                            Order by a court.
     De facto*                              Decree absolute
     In fact or in reality.
                                            The final court order.
     De jure*                               Decree nisi*
                                            A provisional court order.
     De minimis non curat lex*              Deed
     The law will not take account of
                                            A legal document which
     trifling matters.
                                            commits the person signing it
     De novo*                               to something.
     From the beginning, anew.              Deed of arrangement
     Debenture                              A written agreement which can
     A document issued by a                 be made when a debtor is in
     company which acknowledges             financial trouble between the
     that some or all of the                debtor and the creditors.
     company's assets are security          Defamation
     for a debt
                                            Making a statement, either
     Debt                                   orally (slander) or in writing
     Money owed.                            (libel) which damages
                                            someone's reputation.


Default                                Descendant
Failing to do something which          Persons born of or from
had been agreed to.                    children of another.
Defence                                Determination
The name for the lawyers               End or finish.
defending proceedings brought
against someone. It is also in a       Detinue
civil case, a written statement by     A right involving the
the defendant setting out the          defendant's retention of
facts that the defence will rely on.   property belonging to the
                                       plaintiff after the plaintiff has
Defendant                              demanded its return.
A person defending a court
action.                                Devise
                                       Gift of real property by will.
Delegatus non potest
delegare*                              Diminished responsibility
A delegate cannot delegate.            A defence sometimes used for
                                       someone charged with murder
Dependant                              that they suffered lowered
Someone who depends on                 powers of reasoning and
someone else for support.              judgement because of their
                                       unusual state of mind.
A person who swears on oath            Diocese
that a statement is correct.           The area covered by a Bishop's
A statement by a witness made          Diplomatic immunity
under oath.                            Immunity given to certain
                                       members of foreign embassies,
Depreciation                           such as ambassadors, for
The drop in value of an asset          crimes they may have
due to wear and tear                   committed.
Derogation                             Direction/directing
Damaging someone's rights or           Judges must give juries
entitlements.                          instructions on points of law.
                                       This is called directing the jury.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Director                               District Court
     A person appointed to help             First court in the Irish judicial
     manage a company's affairs.            system, with power to award
                                            damages up to k6,349 (as at
     Director of Public                     September 2003) in civil cases,
     Prosecutions                           and to deal with most minor
     Independent official, a lawyer         criminal cases.
     who decides whether to
     prosecute in criminal cases and        District Judge
     in whose name a criminal               Judge of the District Court.
     prosecutions are taken.
     Disbursement                           Proportionate distribution of
     A payment made on behalf of a          profits made by a company in
     client.                                the form of a money payment
                                            to shareholders.
     Release from.                          Divorce
                                            The legal end to a marriage.
     To give up a claim or a right or       Doli Incapax*
     refuse to take over a contract.        A person under the age of 14
                                            but older than 7 is presumed
     Discretionary trust                    to be doli incapax but this
     A trust in which the trustees          presumption is open to
     can decide who will benefit            rebuttal: Under the age of 7
     from the trust and how much            the child is incapable of
     they will get.                         committing the offence.
     Disposal (dispose of)                  Domicile
     Selling, transferring or giving        The country where your
     away.                                  permanent home is even if you
     Distrain/distress                      are living somewhere else.
     To seize goods as security for         Domicile of choice
     an unpaid debt.                        The country in which you make
     Distraint                              your home intending it to be
     Seizure of personal property to
     compel a person to fulfil a legal

                                                          Domicile of origin

Domicile of origin                    Duces tecum*
The domicile a newborn child          Type of witness summons
has.                                  which requires a person to
                                      appear before a court with
Domiciled                             specified documents.
permanently based in a
country.                              Duress
                                      Threatening or pressurising
Dominant tenement                     someone to do something by
Property or land that benefits        force.
from an easement such as a
right of way.                         Duty
                                      A tax charged by the
Donatio mortis causa*                 Government.
Gift made by a dying person
with the intent that the person
receiving the gift shall keep it if   E
donor dies from his existing
complaint.                            A right to use someone else's
                                      land such as a right of way.
Beneficiary of a trust or person
given a power of appointment.         Wages, benefits or profits
                                      received as compensation for
Donor                                 holding office or employment.
Person who gives property for
the benefit of another.
                                      Enabling legislation
                                      Legislation which authorises
Drawee                                bodies to create detailed rules
The person who will pay a bill        to accomplish general
of exchange such as a cheque.         principles set out in that
In the case of a cheque the           legislation.
drawee is the bank that the
cheque is drawn on.
                                      Endorsement of claim
                                      Summary of the facts
Drawer                                supporting a legal claim.
The person that has written a
bill of exchange, such as a
person who has written a              Writing on a document.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Endowment policy                       Estate
     A type of insurance policy which       All a person owns at the date of
     will pay out a lump sum on a           their death; or the right to use
     fixed date in the future, or when      land for a period of time.
     you die, if this happens earlier.
     Endowment                              A guide to do stated work for a
     Transfer of money or property          set price.
     to a charitable organisation for
     a specific purpose.                    Estoppel
                                            A rule of law that a person
     Enduring power of attorney             cannot deny something they
     A power of attorney which takes        previously said if someone else
     effect in the future. A person         acted on what was said and
     capable of dealing with their own      their position was changed as a
     affairs at present can sign an         result.
     enduring power of attorney. It will
     come into effect when they are no      Et seq*
     longer capable of looking after        and in the following pages.
     their own affairs. It gives            Euthanasia
     authority to the person appointed
     to act for the person who signed       Killing someone to end their
     the power of attorney.                 suffering.

     Engrossment                            Evidence
     The final version of a document        Testimony of witnesses at a
     ready for it to be signed.             trial or the production of
                                            documents or other materials to
     Equitable mortgage                     prove or disprove a set of facts.
     A type of mortgage                     Ex aequo et bono*
     Equity                                 Most legal cases are decided on
     The principles of equity are           the strict rule of law but where
     based on fairness.                     a case is decided ex aequo et
                                            bono the judge may make a
     Escrow                                 decision based on what is just
     A deed which has been                  and fair in the circumstances.
     supplied but cannot become
     effective until a future date or       Ex parte*
     until a particular                     Court application made without
     event happens.                         notice to the other side.

                                                             Ex* dividend

Ex* dividend                          Exclusive licence
Without dividend.                     A licence under which only the
                                      licence holder has any rights.
Ex gratia*
Describing something done or          Execute
given as a favour rather than a       To carry out a contract.
legal obligation.
Ex turpi causa non oritur             Describing a document which
actio*                                is made valid by being signed.
A person may not sue for damage
arising out of an illegal activity.   Executive director
                                      A director who works full time
Ex* works                             as a director of the company.
Available from the factory.
Examination-in-chief                  Person appointed in a will to
Questioning of a witness by the       deal with an estate.
party who called that witness.
After the examination-in-chief,       Executory
the other side's lawyer may           Describing something such as
question the witnesses in             a contract which has not been
cross-examination. The first          started yet.
party may re-examine them but         Executrix
only about issues raised during
the cross-examination.                A woman appointed in a will to
                                      deal with an estate.
Excess of jurisdiction
                                      Exemplary damages
Someone acting without
authority.                            Damages given as a
Exchange of contract
Swapping identical contracts.
                                      Document or object shown to a
Excise duty                           judge or jury as evidence in a
A type of tax levied on certain       trial.
goods.                                Expert witness
Exclusions                            An expert in a particular area
The things a contract does not        who is called to give an opinion
provide cover for.                    in a court case.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Express trust                          False pretence
     Trust specifically created by a        Misleading someone by
     settlor usually in a document          deliberately making a false
     such as a will.                        statement.
     Extradition                            False representation
     The handing over of a criminal         Lying in a statement to
     to the country the crime was           persuade someone to enter a
     committed in.                          contract.
     Extraordinary general                  Fee simple
     meeting                                Freehold estate in land.
     A general meeting of the
     members of a company which             Fee tail
     is not the annual general              Form of tenure that can only
     meeting.                               be transferred to a lineal
     Extraordinary resolution
     A resolution for consideration by      Feme covert†
     the members of a company at a          A woman who is married.
     general meeting of the members.        Feme sole†
     Extraterritoriality                    A woman who is not married or
     Operation of the laws of a state       no longer married.
     beyond the territorial limits of       Fiduciary
     that state.
                                            In a position of trust.

     F                                      Fieri facias*
                                            A writ of fieri facias commands
     Factor                                 a sheriff to take and sell
     Someone buying or selling for a        property to pay a debt owed by
     commission; or an organisation         a judgment debtor.
     which provides finance for a
     business by advancing money
                                            Final judgement
     on the value of the invoices the       The court's final decision in a
     business sends out.                    civil case.

     False imprisonment
     Wrongfully keeping someone in

                                                            Fitness to plead

Fitness to plead                     Fostering
Whether or not the person            Looking after other people's
charged is capable of making         children.
an informed decision. If,
because of mental illness, a         Fraud
person charged with an offence       Lying or deceiving to make a
is unable to understand what is      profit or gain an advantage or
going on the person may not be       to cause someone else to make
fit to plead guilty or not guilty.   a loss or suffer a disadvantage.

Fixed charge                         Fraudulent conveyance
A charge which provides              Ownership of land being
security for money lent.             transferred with the intention
                                     of defrauding someone.
Floating charge
A charge used to provide security    Fraudulent preference
for money lent to a company.         Someone who is insolvent
                                     paying one of their creditors
Forbearance                          while knowing there is not
When one party to an                 enough money to pay the
agreement does not pursue            others.
rights under the agreement
even though the other party          Fraudulent trading
has not kept to its terms.           Running a business with the
                                     intention of defrauding its
Force majeure†                       creditors.
An event which cannot be
controlled and which stops           Free of encumbrances
duties under an agreement            No one else having any rights
from being carried out.              over property.

Foreclosure                          Freehold
Repossessing property.               Describing land that only the
                                     owner has any rights over.
The loss of possession of a          Freeholder
property because the tenancy         Person who owns freehold
conditions have not been met         property rights.
by the tenant.                       Frustration
                                     Stopping a contract.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Functus officio*                       Grant
     Having discharged his/her              Proof that you are entitled to
     duty.                                  deal with a dead person's
     Futures contract
     A binding contract to buy or           Grant of probate
     sell something on a date in the        A Court certificate proving that
     future at a fixed price.               the executors of a will are
                                            entitled to deal with the estate.

     G                                      Gross negligence
                                            Act or omission in reckless
     Garnishee                              disregard of the consequences
     Person who owes a third party          for the safety or property of
     a debt which is attached by            another.
     court order for the benefit of a
     judgment creditor.                     Guarantee
                                            A promise by a person to repay
     Garnishee order                        a debt owed by a second
     A court order to a third party         person if the second person
     who owes money to a                    fails to repay it.
     judgement debtor to pay the
     money to the judgement                 Guarantee company
     creditor.                              A company whose members
                                            only have to pay the amount
     General damages                        they have agreed to contribute
     Damages a court will give to           if the company has to be
     compensate for a wrong done.           wound up.
     General meeting                        Guarantor
     A meeting of the members of a          A person or organisation that
     company to make decisions              promises to pay a debt owed by
     about the company.                     a second person, if the second
     Goodwill                               person fails to repay it.
     Intangible business asset based        Guardian
     on the reputation of a business        A person appointed to look
     resulting from the attraction          after the interests of a child or
     and confidence of repeat               of someone who is not capable
     customers and connections.             of looking after their own

                                                      Guardian ad litem*

Guardian ad litem*                 Hire
A person who has authority to      To pay to borrow something for
manage the person or property      a period.
of a child or a person under
mental disability for the          Hire purchase
purposes of a legal action.        A form of credit which allows
                                   the purchaser to have
Guilty                             possession of the goods shown
A court's verdict that the         in the hire purchase
person charged with a crime        agreement.
committed it.
                                   Holding company
                                   A company which controls
H                                  another company usually by
                                   owning more than half of its
Habeas corpus*                     shares.
A procedure to have a person
brought before a court to          Hostile witness
enquire into the lawfulness of     A witness who refuses to testify
that person’s detention.           in support of the person who
                                   called him or testifies in a way
Hearsay                            which differs from their
Evidence of which a witness        previous statement.
does not have direct knowledge
from his own senses but which
is based on what others have       I
                                   In pari delicto*
Hearsay evidence                   If two parties are equally to
Evidence given in court of         blame for a situation a court
something said to the witness      could refuse to provide a
by another person.                 remedy to either of them
                                   because they are in pari
Hereditament                       delicto.
Any property that can
be inherited.                      In personam*
                                   All legal rights are either in
High Court                         personam or in rem. An in
Court above the Circuit Court      personam right attaches to a
with full jurisdiction to decide   particular person.
all matters of law and fact.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     In rem*                                Injunction
     In rem rights relate to property       Court order that forbids a party
     and are not based on any               to do something (prohibitory
     personal relationship.                 injunction) or compels him to
                                            do something (mandatory
     Incorporeal                            injunction).
     Intangible legal rights, such as
     copyrights or patents.                 Insolvent
                                            Not able to pay debts as they
     Incorporeal hereditament               become due.
     Intangible property rights
     which may be inherited such            Intangible property
     as easements and profits à             Property which does not
     prendre.                               physically exist such as a
     Incriminating.                         Inter alia*
                                            Among other things.
     Deed executed by both or all           Inter partes*
     parties.                               Between the parties.
     Indict                                 Inter vivos*
     Using legal means to officially        Between living persons.
     accuse someone of committing
     an offence.                            Interest
                                            A legal right to use property.
     Indictable offence
     An offence which can be tried          Interim order
     by a jury in the Circuit Court.        Temporary court order of
                                            limited duration.
     Formal written accusation              Interlineation
     initiating the trial of a criminal     Addition to a document after it
     offence before a jury in the           has been signed.
     Circuit Court                          Interlocutory injunction
     the Central Criminal Court, the
     High Court or the Special              An injunction which lasts only
     Criminal Court.                        until the end of the trial during
                                            which the order was sought.

                                                   Interlocutory judgement

Interlocutory judgement
A provisional judgement.
                                   Joinder of parties
                                   Uniting parties as plaintiffs or
Formal questions in a civil case   defendents in a court case.
from one side which the other
side must answer under oath.       Joint and several liability
                                   Liability of more than one
                                   person, under which each may
When someone dies without          be sued for the entire amount
leaving a will.                    of damages due by all.
Intestate                          Joint lives policy
Person who dies without            A life assurance policy on more
making a will.                     than one person's life.
Intimidation                       Joint tenancy
Threatening or frightening         Two or more people having
someone into doing something.      identical shares in land.
Invitation to treat                Joint will
An offer to receive an offer.      A single will which two or more
IOU                                people make to cover all their
A written confirmation of a
debt signed by the debtor          Joyriding
which implies an undertaking       Stealing a vehicle and then
to pay the sum owed at some        using it.
future date.
Ipso facto*
                                   A person whose job is to
By the mere fact.                  adjudicate in court cases. Since
Issue                              2002 Solicitors and Barristers
                                   can be appointed as judges to all
The matter to be decided in a
                                   the courts in Ireland (Supreme,
court action.
                                   High, Circuit and District).
Issued share capital
                                   Judge advocate
Share capital which has been
                                   A lawyer who advises a military
allocated to shareholders who
                                   court which is trying an
have asked for shares.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Judge Advocate General                 Judicial precedent
     A lawyer who is in charge of           The practice of lower courts
     military justice.                      following the decisions of
                                            higher courts.
     Judge in chambers
     A hearing by a Judge which is          Judicial review
     not held in open court.                Proceedings in which a court is
                                            asked to rule on a decision of
     Judgement                              an administrative body or
     A decision by a court.                 quasi-judicial tribunal.
     Judgement creditor                     Judicial separation
     A person who is owed money             A court order that two married
     who has been to court and              people should live apart.
     obtained a judgement for the
     money owed.                            Junior barrister
                                            A barrister who is not a Senior
     Judgement debtor                       Counsel.
     A person who owes the money
     a court judgement says is              Junior counsel
     owed.                                  Barrister who is not a Senior
     Judgement in default
     Getting a judgement because a          Jurat†
     person failed to do something.         Memorandum at end of
                                            affidavit stating where and
     Judgment                               when it was sworn followed by
     Verdict pronounced by a court          the signature and description
     of law.                                of person before whom it was
     Judicial discretion                    sworn.
     A degree of flexibility about the      Jurisdiction
     way courts do things.                  The territory in which a court
     Judicial immunity                      can operate; or the power it has
                                            to deal with particular cases or
     Immunity that a judge has              the power it has to issue orders.
     from being sued for damages
     when acting as a judge.                Juror
                                            One of the people who are
                                            acting as a jury.


Jury                               Knock for knock
A group of people, usually 12,     An agreement between
who review all the evidence in a   insurance companies that they
court case and then come to a      will pay for their own
verdict.                           policyholders' losses regardless
                                   of who was to blame.
Jury service
Serving on a jury.                 Know-how
Just and equitable winding up
A winding up ordered because
fairness cannot be achieved for    L
all the members of a company.
Justification                      G   The buildings built on the
Claiming that a defamatory             land;
statement is true.                 G   the subsoil;
                                   G   the airspace above the land
Juvenile offender                      necessary for ordinary use of
A person aged between 7 and            the land; and
17 who has committed a             G   property fixed to the land.
criminal offence.
                                   Owner of a building or land
K                                  who leases the land, building or
Kidnap                             part of it to another person who
                                   is called the tenant or lessee.
To take someone away by force
against their will.                Lawsuit
Kin                                A claim made in a court of law.
Relationship by blood.             Lay litigant
King's Inns                        Non-lawyer who brings a legal
                                   action without the assistance of
The body responsible for           a barrister or solicitor.
educating and training of
barristers in Ireland.             Lease
                                   A contract between the owner
                                   of a property and a tenant,
                                   giving the tenant sole use of
                                   the property for an agreed time.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Leasehold                              Letter of credit
     Property held by a tenant with         A letter one bank sends to a
     a lease.                               second bank asking them to
                                            pay money to a named person.
     A gift left to someone in a will       Letters of administration
     not including land.                    An authority the High Court
                                            gives to a person to deal with a
     Legal Aid Scheme                       dead person's estate. It is given
     A scheme for paying legal costs        when someone dies intestate.
     out of public funds for people
     who cannot afford to pay for           Liabilities
     them.                                  The debts that a person or
                                            organisation owes.
     Legal Aid
     Government scheme providing            Liability
     advice or assistance from a            A debt or obligation.
     Solicitor or Barrister free or at
     a reduced rate.                        Libel
                                            A false statement made in
     Legal professional privilege           writing or in some other
     Confidential communications            permanent record.
     between a lawyer and client
     may not be revealed in court           Licence
     unless the client waives the           An authority to do something.
     privilege. The communications          Licensee
     must relate to court
     proceedings or intended                The holder of a licence to do
     litigation.                            something.

     Legatee                                Lien
     The person who receives a              The right to keep possession of
     legacy.                                something owned by someone
                                            who owes a debt until the debt
     Lessee                                 has been settled.
     The person a property has been         Life assurance policy
     leased to.                             (or life insurance policy)
     Lessor                                 A contract between the
     The person who lets a property         policyholder and the insurance
     by lease.                              company.

                                                            Life assured

Life assured                        Liquidation
The person whose life is            Sale of all the assets of a
assured by a life assurance         company or partnership by a
policy.                             liquidator and use of the
                                    proceeds to pay off creditors.
Life imprisonment
A sentence given to a criminal      Liquidator
to be imprisoned for the rest of    The person appointed to wind
their life.                         up a company.
Life interest                       Lis pendens*
An interest which will pass to      Registration of a pending action
someone else when the present       against the owner of land.
owner dies.
Life tenant                         A person involved in a lawsuit.
Someone entitled to use
property for their life.            Litigation
                                    Taking legal action through the
Life tenant                         courts.
Beneficiary of a life estate.
                                    Loan capital
Limitation of actions               Money borrowed by a person,
The Statute of Limitations sets     usually a company.
down times within which
proceedings must be brought.        Loan creditor
                                    A person or organisation which
Limited company                     has lent money.
A company which limits how
much its members will have to       Locus in quo*
pay if the company is wound up.     The place where something
                                    took place.
Lineal descendant
Direct descendant, the child of     Locus standi*
its parents.                        Person's right to take an action
                                    or be heard by a court.
Liquidated damages
Damages agreed beforehand by
the parties to a contract in case
one of them should later break
the terms of the contract.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     M                                      Mandamus*
                                            High Court order commanding
     Maintenance                            an individual, organisation,
     Money paid to support a                administrative tribunal or court
     spouse (husband or wife) and           to perform a certain action
     children.                              usually to correct an earlier
                                            action or failure to fulfil some
     Majority                               duty.
     The age when a person gains full
     legal rights and responsibilities.     Mandate
     In Ireland it is when a person         An authority to act given by
     becomes 18 years old.                  one party to another.

     Mala fides*                            Manslaughter
     Bad faith.                             Killing someone illegally which
                                            is not murder.
     Male issue
     Male descendants of men.               Market overt†
                                            A lawful market in which as
     Malfeasance                            long as someone buying goods
     An unlawful act.                       is not aware that they do not
                                            belong to the seller the buyer
     Malice                                 will get a good title to the
     Intending to do something              goods.
     which is against the law.
                                            Martial law
     Malicious falsehood                    Government of a country by
     A written or spoken lie told to        the military.
     harm somebody and which
     does do harm.                          Material facts
                                            Facts which are a key part of a
     Malicious prosecution                  defence or a claim.
     A prosecution which is brought
     unreasonably.                          Matricide
                                            The killing of a mother by her
                                            son or daughter.
                                            Matrimonial home
                                            The house that a husband and
                                            wife live in as a married couple.


Mediation                           Messuage†
Form of alternative dispute         A house together with its land
resolution involving an agreed      and outbuildings.
mediator acting as a facilitator
to help the parties negotiate an    Minor
agreement.                          A person under the age of 18
Memorandum and Articles
of Association                      Minority
The memorandum gives                Under the age of full legal
details of:                         rights and responsibilities.
G a company's name,

G objects and
G share capital.                    A record of the meetings held
G the limits of the shareholders'   by members, directors and
  liability if the company has to   others of organisations of
  be wound up.                      companies.
The articles set out the            Misadventure
  members' rights and the
                                    An unexpected accident which
  directors' powers.
                                    happens while lawfully doing
Mens rea*                           something.
Guilty mind. Most crimes            Miscarriage of justice
require proof of guilty intention
                                    The court system failing to give
before a person can be
                                    justice to a person.
Mercantile law
                                    Deliberately doing something
Law dealing with commerce.
                                    which is against the law or
Merchantable quality                which is wrong.
The assumption in the law that      Misdirection
goods sold by a business will
                                    A judge instructing a jury
be fit for their purpose.
Mesne Rates                         Misfeasance
Income lost by an owner when
                                    Improperly doing something
property is occupied without
                                    which a person has a legal
                                    right to do.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Misjoinder                             Moratorium
     When a person has been                 An agreement not to take
     wrongly named as a party to a          action for an agreed period
     law suit a court will usually          of time.
     amend the proceedings to
     strike out the name of the             Mortgage
     misjoined party.                       Using property as security for a
     A material statement which             Mortgagee
     induces a party to enter into a        The lender of the money which
     contract.                              is secured by a mortgage.

     Mistrial                               Mortgagor
     A trial that has been made             The person who borrows the
     invalid.                               money to buy a property.

     Mitigation                             Motive
     Facts which while not negating         Reason for a person doing
     an offence or wrongful action          something.
     tend to show that the defendant        Muniments
     may have had some excuse for
     acting the way he did.                 Documents which are evidence
                                            of a right to something.
     One half, fifty percent.
                                            Natural justice
     Behaviour by a person which
                                            The requirement for application
     annoys or greatly troubles
                                            of principles of fairness and
     another person.
                                            justice for example audi
     Money laundering                       alteram partem* (hear the other
     Making money from crime and            side).
     then passing it through a
     business to make it appear

                                                        Natural person

Natural person                     Non est factum*
Human being with legal and         Not his deed.
constitutional rights and
duties, including the right to:    Nondisclosure
G life,                            The failure by one side to a
G information,                     contract to reveal a fact to the
G travel,                          other side that would influence
G a good name,                     their decision to go ahead with
G earn a living,                   the contract.
G sue and be sued,

G sign contracts,
                                   Non-exclusive licence
G receive gifts, and               An agreement giving someone the
G appear in court either by        right to use something but which
  himself or through a lawyer.     does not prevent other people
                                   being given similar agreements.
Giving a citizen of one country
citizenship of another.            Not doing something that one
                                   is bound to do by law.
                                   If a person who should have
Negligent                          been a party to legal
Lacking proper care to do a        proceedings has been omitted
duty properly.                     the court may amend the
                                   pleadings to include the non-
Negotiable instrument              joined party.
A document which is signed
and is an instruction to pay an    Not guilty
amount of money.                   A court's verdict that the
                                   person charged with a crime
Nemo jude in sua causa*            did not commit it.
Nobody may be a judge in his
own case.                          Not negotiable
                                   Cannot be transferred.
Next of kin
Person's nearest blood relation.   Notary
                                   A lawyer, usually a solicitor,
Nolle prosequi*                    who is authorised to certify
Recorded decision not to           documents, take affidavits and
prosecute further.                 swear oaths.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Notice                                 Obligee
     A warning of something which           Someone who under a contract
     is about to happen.                    receives money or has
                                            something done.
     Notice to quit
     A notice to end a tenancy on a         Obligor
     stated date.                           Someone who is bound by a
                                            contract to pay money or do
     Novation                               something.
     Replacing an existing
     agreement with a new one.              Occupational pension
     Nudum pactum*                          A pension scheme organised by
     An empty agreement.                    an employer for its employees.
     Nuisance                               Occupier
     Doing something that harms             The person who is in control of
     other people's rights.                 a piece of land such as a
     O                                      Offensive weapon
     Oath                                   An object that is intended to
                                            physically injure someone.
     Swearing the truth of a
     statement.                             Offer
     Obiter dicta*                          A promise to do something or
                                            not to do something.
     By the way. Observations by a
     judge on law or facts not              Offeree
     specifically before the court or       The person who receives a
     not necessary to decide an issue.      legally binding offer.
     Objects clause                         Offeror
     A clause which forms part of a         The person who makes a legally
     company's Memorandum of                binding offer.
     Association It sets out the
     purposes the company was               Official secret
     formed for.                            Information which the
                                            Government classifies as
     Obligation                             confidential.
     A legal duty to do something.


A failure to do something.
                                    The list of people who have
Burden.                             been summoned for jury
Oppression                          service.
The offence of public officials     Pardon
using their official positions to   Releasing someone from a
harm or injure people.              court's punishment.
Option                              Pari passu*
A type of contract under which      Equally.
money is paid for a right to buy
or sell property or goods at a      Parole
fixed price by a particular date    Release from prison early.
in the future.
Order                               Division.
Formal written direction by a
judge.                              Partnership
                                    Two or more persons carrying
Originating summons                 on a business together.
A summons that sets out the
questions the court is being        Party
asked to decide.                    The plaintiff or defendant in a
A person who was not                Passing off
protected by the law.               Pretending that the goods and
                                    services offered are those
Out-of-court settlement             supplied by another business.
Agreement between two
persons to settle a matter          Patent
before a court has heard the        Exclusive privilege granted to
matter or given its decision.       an inventor to make, use or sell
                                    an invention for a period of
Overt act                           years.
An act done openly.
                                    The killing of a father by his
                                    own son or daughter.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Pawn                                   Per quod*
     To pledge goods as security for        In accordance with or whereby.
     a loan.
                                            Per quod servitium amisit*
     Payee                                  By which he lost the service.
     The person money is being paid
     to.                                    Per se*
                                            In itself or by itself.
     Payment into court
     Money paid to the court by the         Per stirpes*
     defendant for payment to the           Describes property divided
     plaintiff.                             equally between the offspring.

     Payor                                  Peremptory
     Person who makes a payment             An order which admits of no
     on a bill of exchange.                 excuse for non-compliance.

     Penalty                                Performance
     A sum of money which has to            Doing what is required under a
     be paid if the terms of a              contract.
     contract are broken or a               Perjury
     punishment given to someone
     who commits a crime.                   Deliberate lie under oath.

     Penalty points                         Perpetuity
     Points given as punishment for         Forever.
     driving offences. If enough            Personal guarantee
     penalty points have been
                                            A pledge by a person to repay a
     collected the offenders may
                                            debt owed if another fails to
     have their driving licences
                                            pay it.
     taken off them.
                                            Personal injury
     Pendente lite*
                                            An injury caused to a person.
     During litigation.
                                            Personal property
                                            All property except land.
     Through or by.
     Per pro*
     On behalf of.

                                                Personal representative

Personal representative          Plea bargain
Person who administers the       When the accused pleads guilty
estate of a deceased person.     instead of not guilty in return
Where a person dies without a    for a concession by the
will, the court appoints an      prosecution.
administrator. A personal
representative named in a will   Plead
is called an executor.           To declare to the court whether
                                 you are guilty or not guilty.
Personal property.               Pleadings
                                 Written claims delivered by one
Personation                      claimant to another setting out
Pretending to be someone you     the facts and legal arguments
are not.                         supporting his position. High
                                 Court pleadings include:
Perverting the course of         G an Originating Summons,
justice                          G Statement of Claim,
Doing something to interfere     G Defence,
with the justice system.         G Counterclaim, and

                                 G Reply.
                                 Circuit Court pleadings
Formal written submission to     include:
court seeking redress of an      G a Civil Bill,
injustice.                       G a Defence,

Picket                           District Court pleadings are:
                                 G a civil summons,
Peaceful public demonstration,   G notice of intention to defend,
on or near an employer's
premises in furtherance of       G counterclaim.
trade dispute.
Plaintiff                        Pledge
                                 Letting someone take
The person who goes to court
                                 possession of goods but the
to make a claim against
                                 ownership does not change.
someone else.
Plea                             Plenipotentiary
                                 Someone who has been given
The defendant’s answer to
                                 complete authority to act.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Poaching                               Practising certificate
     Taking game from someone               Certificates showing a person is
     else's land without permission.        entitled to practise law. The
                                            Law Society issues these
     Polygamy                               certificates to the solicitors who
     Being married to more than             may practise law in Ireland.
     one person at once.
     Possess                                An explanation of a proposed
     To have property under your            law.
                                            Precatory words
     Possession                             Words that express a wish,
     Having something under your            hope or desire rather than a
     control.                               clear command.
     Possessory title                       Precedent
     Gaining title through                  Court judgment which is cited
     possession sometimes referred          as an authority in a later case
     to as “squatters title”.               involving similar facts.
     Post-mortem                            Precedent cannot bind a higher
                                            court. A Circuit Court decision
     The examination of a dead body         cannot bind a High Court judge.
     to establish the cause of death.       A Supreme Court judgment
     Power of appointment                   binds all courts although it does
                                            not bind that Court itself in
     A person giving another person
                                            future cases.
     the power to dispose of the first
     person's property.                     Precept
     Power of attorney                      An order given by an official
                                            body or person.
     A document which gives power
     to the person appointed to act         Pre-emption
     for the person who signed the          The right to buy property
     document.                              before others are given the
                                            chance to buy.
                                            When insolvent paying one
                                            creditor while leaving other
                                            creditors unpaid.

                                                      Preference shares

Preference shares                  Pro tempore (pro tem)*
A share entitled to a fixed        Temporary or for the time
dividend.                          being.
Preferential creditor              Probate
A creditor who has to be paid      Authority to deal with a dead
in full before unsecured           person's estate.
creditors can be paid anything.
                                   Probate law
Prescription                       The law which regulates wills
Way of acquiring property          and other matters related to
rights, such as an easement,       the distribution of a deceased
by long and continued use or       person's estate.
enjoyment, commonly referred
to as “squatters title”.           Probate Registry
                                   The registry which deals with
Prima facie*                       the forms which are needed
On the face of it                  when someone applies for
Someone who authorises             Probation
another person to act for them.    If a court convicts someone of
                                   an offence, the Judge may
Private law                        order that the offender is
Domestic law which regulates       supervised by a probation
the relationships between          officer for a period of time.
individuals and in which the
State is not directly concerned.   Process
                                   A process is a summons or writ
Privilege                          which is used to order someone
Special legal right such as a      to appear in court; the whole of
benefit, exemption, power or       a case from beginning to end.
Privity of contract                A person who has been given
Only the parties to a contract     authority to manage another
can sue each other over            person's affairs such as under
breaches of contract.              a power of attorney.
Pro rata*
In proportion.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Product liability                      Prospectus
     The liability of manufacturers         Document or notice in which a
     and sellers to compensate              company sets out details of a
     people for unsafe goods which          proposed share or bond issue.
     have caused injury to people or
     property.                              Prostitution
                                            Selling sexual services for
     Profit à prendre†                      money.
     Profit to be taken from land.
     Prohibition                            A clause in a legal document
     Legal restriction on the use of        which qualifies another section
     something or on certain                of the agreement.
     Promisee                               Causing someone to lose their
     A person who has been                  self-control by doing or saying
     promised something.                    something which would cause a
                                            reasonable person to
     Promisor                               temporarily lose their self-
     A person who has promised              control.
     Promissory note                        A person appointed by a
     A written promise to pay an            shareholder to go to a meeting
     amount of money to someone             of shareholders.
     at a given time.
                                            Proxy form
     Property                               A form for shareholders by
     Property is something which            which if it is delivered to a
     belongs to a person and over           company before the
     which he has total control.            shareholders' meeting the
     Prosecution                            person who is the proxy will be
                                            able to vote at that meeting.
     Team of people bringing
     proceedings against someone            Public mischief
     else.                                  Something that someone does
                                            which damages the general

                                                          Public nuisance

Public nuisance                      Quiet possession
A crime by which the general         Using property without
public is put in danger or           interference.
suffers damage to its health,
property and so on.                  Quo warranto*
                                     By what authority.
Punitive damages
Exceptional damages ordered          Quorum*
by a court where an act or           The lowest number of
omission was of a particularly       qualifying people needed for a
serious, extensive or malicious      meeting to be able to make a
nature.                              decision.

Putative father
The man found by a court to be       R
the father of a non-marital          Racial discrimination
                                     Treating someone less
                                     favourably because of their
Q                                    race, colour, nationality or
An organisation set up by the        Rack rent
Government to do a particular        The full market value rent of a
activity. It is partly independent   property.
and does not form part of the        Rape
                                     Having sex with a person
Quantum meruit*                      without their permission or
As much as he has deserved.          forcing them to have sex
                                     against their will.
Amount or extent.                    Ratio decidendi*
                                     The reason for the decision.
Quid pro quo*
Something for something.             Real
                                     Relating to immovable property
Quiet enjoyment                      such as buildings or land.
Allowing a tenant to use land
without interference.                Real estate
                                     Land owned by someone who
                                     has died.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Real property                          Redundancy
     Land and buildings, minerals           Being dismissed from a job
     in the land and rights over the        because it no longer exists.
                                            Registered land
     Realty                                 Title of land recorded in the
     Real property.                         Land Registry.
     Reasonable force                       Registered office
     Necessary force.                       The official address where
                                            documents can be served on a
     Rebuttable presumption                 company.
     Presumed fact based on the
     proof of other facts.                  Registrar of Companies
                                            An official in charge of the
     Receiver                               office which keeps records of
     Someone appointed to sell              registered companies.
     assets to raise money to repay
     lenders.                               Reinsurance
                                            An insurance company
     Receiving                              insuring part of a risk it is
     Gaining control of stolen              covering.
     Recognisance                           G   To give up a valid claim
     An undertaking, given by                   against someone;
     someone to a court, to make            G   to free someone from prison;
     sure that they do what the                   or
     court requires.                        G   a document used to cancel a
     Record                                     claim one person has against
     The documents in a court case
     from beginning to end.                 Remainder
     Recovery                               An interest which starts when
                                            a previous interest finishes.
     Regaining possession of land by
     taking court proceedings.
     Paying off all the money


Remand                              Repossession or repossess
Being kept in prison or paying      A mortgagee recovering vacant
bail. If an accused person is       possession of the property
placed on remand they are           mortgaged.
either kept in prison for a short
period or have to pay bail or get   Representation
                                    G   Acting on behalf of someone
someone to pay it for them.
                                        else, such as a Solicitor
Remedy                                  acting for a client;
Using the law to get                G   taking someone else's place
compensation for damage done            such as when a court gives
or for rights infringed.                an executor the right to deal
                                        with a dead person's affairs;
Renouncing probate                        or
A proposed executor refusing        G   a statement in a contract.
to act.
                                    Representative action
Rent                                One or more people in a group
Money or other consideration        of people with the same
paid by a tenant to a landlord      grievance taking legal action
in exchange for the exclusive       representing the
possession and use of land,         group.
buildings or part of a building.
Repeat offender                     A judge suspending or
A person who continues to           cancelling punishment for an
commit the same offence.            offence.
Replevin                            Res ipsa loquitur*
Legal action to recover goods.      Proof is not needed because the
Reply                               facts speak for themselves.
A plaintiff’s answer to a claim.    Rescission
In a civil case the defendant       The cancellation of a contract.
may offer a defence to the
claim and make a                    Reservation of title
counterclaim.                       A contract which leaves
                                    ownership of the goods with the
                                    seller until the goods have been
                                    paid for.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Reserved costs                         Restitutio in integrum*
     Apportionment of payment of            Restoration to the original
     legal fees to be decided at a          position.
     later stage.
     Reserved judgment                      An order for the return of
     Decision to be given at a later        stolen goods to the victim of
     date.                                  the theft or for compensation to
                                            be paid to the victim.
     Money set aside in accounts            Restraining order
     which can be spent in later years.     An order which a court may
                                            issue to prevent a person from
     Residence                              doing a particular thing.
     Place where someone usually
     lives.                                 Restriction
                                            When placed on a piece of land
     Residuary legacy                       the owner cannot sell or
     What remains to be given out           mortgage the land.
     from an estate after all debts,
     taxes and specific legacies have       Restrictive covenant
     been paid.                             A deed which restricts how a
                                            piece of land can be used.
     What is left of an estate after        Resulting trust
     all debts, taxes, expenses and         Trust which comes into being
     specific legacies have been            when an express trust fails.
     dealt with.
     Resisting arrest                       A payment to a lawyer to act in
     A person trying to prevent a           a case.
     Garda arresting him.
                                            Retention of title
     Resolution                             Reservation of title.
     A decision taken by the members
     of a company in a meeting.             Reversion
                                            Future interest in property
     Respondent                             retained by a transferor or his
     Person against whom a                  heirs.
     summons is issued, or a
     petition or appeal brought.            Revocation


To cancel or withdraw.
                                     Sale or return
Revolving credit agreement
                                     An arrangement under which
A loan agreement under which         goods can be kept by the
a person can borrow again to         potential buyer for a period
top up the loan, as long as they     while their resale is attempted.
do not go over their credit limit.
                                     Compensation paid by the
Addition attached to a               owners for saving ships, aircraft
completed document.                  and property from the sea.
Right of way                         Sanction
A legal right obliging the owner     To ratify, to approve or to
of land to allow authorised          punish.
people to cross it.
Rights issue                         G   Paying a debt;
An issue of extra shares by a        G   settling an obligation by an
company.                                 act; or
                                     G   settling an obligation by
                                         substituting something
A gathering of people using, or
                                         satisfactory for what was
threatening to use, violence to
                                         originally required.
achieve a common end.
Riparian rights                      Scheme of arrangement
                                     An agreement between a
Rights of owners of land on a
                                     person with debts who cannot
river bank.
                                     pay them when they are due
Robbery                              and the creditors.
Using or threatening to use          Scienter*
force while carrying out a theft.
                                     A certificate showing the extra
                                     shares and fractions of shares
                                     the owner is entitled to.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Scrip dividend                         Sedition
     A dividend paid in shares              Writing things or saying things
     instead of cash.                       which encourage people to rise
                                            up against the Government.
     Scrip issue
     Free shares offered to the             Seisin*
     members of a company in                Actual or constructive legal
     proportion to their                    possession.
                                            Senior Counsel
     Search                                 Barrister who has taken silk or
     Inspection of the registers            who has been called to the
     maintained by organisations            Inner Bar.
     such as the Land Registry.
     Search warrant                         The penalty a court imposes on
     Written order normally issued          someone found guilty of an
     by a judge or Peace                    offence.
     Commissioner giving Gardaí
     permission to enter private            Separation order
     property, to search for and seize      A court order that a husband
     evidence of the commission of a        and wife can live separately.
     crime, the proceeds of crime or        Sequestration
     property that they suspect may
     be used to commit a crime.             Temporary confiscation of
                                            property by court order until the
     Securities                             owner purges his contempt by
     Stocks, shares, debentures and         obeying an earlier court order.
     so on where there is a right to        Service
     receive interest or dividends
     from the investment.                   Delivery of court documents by
                                            one party to the other.
                                            Servient tenement
     Something of value pledged by
     a borrower.                            Land subject to an easement.

     Security of tenure                     Settle
     Protection from a landlord             Means to:
                                            G create a settlement;
     attempting to obtain possession
                                            G end a case by agreement; or
     of the property the tenant is
                                            G draw up a contract and
                                              agree its terms.


Settlement                          Sheriff
When property is given, usually     A court officer, usually a
by a will or a deed, on a trust     County Registrar, who may
for the benefit of people decided   seize goods.
by the settlor.
Settlor                             Stealing goods from a shop.
The person who gives property
to a settlement.                    Silent partner
                                    Person who invests in a
Several                             company or partnership shares
Separate.                           in the profits or losses but
                                    takes no part in administering
Shadow director                     or directing the organisation.
A person who has not been
appointed a director of a           Simpliciter*
company but nevertheless gives      Simply.
instructions to the directors
which they comply with.             Sine die*
Share capital
The money invested directly in      Slander
a company by its members.           Saying something untrue about
                                    a person.
Share certificate
A document which certifies who      Slander of title
owns shares in a company.           Falsely and maliciously denying
                                    someone's title to property
Share premium account               including real property, a
An account in a set of books        business or goods.
recording the extra amount
over face value that shares         Small Claims Court
have been issued for.               A section of the District Court
                                    which deals with small claims.
Share                               There is a simplified way of
A portion of a company. A           making a claim where the claim
share certificate constitutes       is for no more than k1269.77
proof of share ownership.           (as at September 2003).

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Smuggling                              Specific performance
     Importing or exporting goods           A court order to complete a
     illegally to avoid a ban on them       contract.
     or to avoid the duties on them.
     Sold note                              A person who occupies land
     A note that shows details of           illegally.
     investments which have been
     sold, including the sale price         Stalking
     and any charges taken.                 A form of harassment where a
     Stockbrokers produce sold              person is made to feel alarmed
     notes for their clients.               or distressed by another
                                            person's actions.
     A prostitute attempting to get         Stamp duty
     clients in a street or other           A tax on the transfer
     public place.                          documents for certain types of
     A lawyer who can deal with any         Stare decisis*
     legal matter, give advice and          To stand by decisions. Policy
     appear in court. All solicitors        whereby once a court has made a
     are listed on the Roll of              decision on a certain set of facts
     Solicitors kept by the Law             lower courts must apply that
     Society of Ireland. Solicitors         precedent in subsequent cases
     can appear for their                   which embody the same facts.
     clients in all the Courts in           Statement of claim
     Ireland and can be appointed
     judges to all of them.                 The claimant's written
                                            statement setting out the claim
     Special Criminal Court                 in a civil case in the High
     Non-jury court with three              Court.
     judges set up to deal with             Status
     terrorist offences.
                                            How the law regards a person
     Special resolution                     such as whether the person is
     A resolution which must be             a minor or a bankrupt.
     approved by holders of at least        Statute
     75% of the shares with voting
     rights.                                An Act of the Oireachtas (Dáil
                                            and Seanad).

                                                          Statute book

Statute book                       Stockbroker
All the existing statutes in a     A person who buys and sells
country.                           stocks and shares for clients.
Statute law                        Strict liability
The law created by the             Liability without need to prove
Oireachtas.                        wrongful intent, negligence or
Statute of limitations
A statute which sets out the       Sub judice*
time limits within which a         Something being dealt with by
court action must take place.      a court which cannot be
                                   discussed outside the court.
Statutory accounts
Company accounts which have        Subduct
been filed with the Registrar of   To withdraw.
                                   Subject to contract
Statutory audit                    An agreement which is not
An audit required by law.          binding until a contract has
Certain companies have to have     been signed.
their accounts audited by
suitably qualified accountants.    Subpoena
                                   A summons or order requiring
Statutory books                    the person to whom it is
Books of account which             addressed to attend at a court
companies must keep by law to      on a specific date and at a
show and explain all their         stated time.
Statutory instrument               Substitution of one person or
A power delegated by the           thing for another by operation
Oireachtas to make or amend        of law without the agreement of
laws of a subsidary nature.        the person from whom the
                                   rights are transferred.
Stay of execution
The suspension of the carrying     Subscribers
out of a court order.              The people who set up a limited

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Subsidiarity                           Summary judgement
     Subsidiary activities.                 Obtaining judgement without a
     A company controlled by                Summary offence
     another company.                       An offence that can be tried by
                                            a District Court judge.
     Substituted service
     If a party appears to be               Summary proceedings
     avoiding service of legal              A trial by a District Court
     documents, a court may be              judge, where the defendant has
     asked to direct that instead of        the right to choose which court
     personal service documents             should hear the case, but has
     can be served by post or in            agreed to be tried in the
     some other way.                        District Court.
     Successor                              Summary trial
     Person who takes over the              A trial by a District Judge.
     rights or property of another.
                                            Summing up
     Sue                                    The judge's summary of a case.
     To start legal proceedings in
     the civil court against someone.       Summons
                                            Written command to a person
     Sui generis*                           to appear in court.
     Something that belongs in a
     particular category or is the          Superior courts
     only one of its class.                 The High and the Supreme
     Sui juris*
     Someone who can enter into a           Supra*
     contract without any restriction.      See above or before in the
     The act of killing oneself             Supreme Court
     intentionally.                         Final court of appeal in Ireland,
                                            headed by the Chief Justice.
     Proceedings brought by one             Surcharge
     person against another in a            A penalty charged if tax is
     civil court.                           paid late.


Surety                             Tax point
Someone who takes                  The date when Value Added
responsibility for someone         Tax arises on goods or services
else's debts or promises, and      supplied or made available to a
guarantees that they will be       customer.
paid or done.
                                   Taxable supply
Surety                             Supplying goods and services
Person who has pledged             on which Value Added Tax can
himself by deed to ensure that     be charged.
another person fulfils an
obligation – such as appearing     Taxation
in court or paying back a loan.    The levying of taxes.

Suspended sentence                 Taxation of costs
A sentence that is postponed       The scrutiny of a Solicitor's bill
until the offender is convicted    to a client. The scrutiny is done
of another offence.                by a court officer known as a
                                   taxing master.

T                                  Teeming and lading
                                   To hide the loss of cash
Tangible asset                     received from one customer by
An asset which can be              using cash from other
physically touched.                customers to replace it.
Tangible property                  Tenancy in common
Property that physically exists.   Tenants-in-common share
                                   property rights, but may hold
Tax                                different parts of a piece of land
Money raised by the                or unequal shares.
Government to pay for the
services it provides.              Tenant
                                   Person to whom a landlord
Tax avoidance                      grants temporary and exclusive
Reducing tax bills by using        use of land or a building,
legal means.                       usually in exchange for rent.
Tax evasion
Breaking the law to reduce
tax bills.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Tender                                 Theft
     Supplying a price for a job. If        Taking someone else's property
     an organisation asks firms to          dishonestly with the intention
     send in tenders for supplying          of never returning it.
     something they are asking for
     firm written offers to do the          Threatening behaviour
     work to an agreed standard             Using threats, abuse or insults
     and at a stated price.                 against another person.

     Tenement                               Timeshare
     Property held by a tenant that         An arrangement where people
     could be subject to rights in his      can buy a share in part of a
     favour.                                property for a period of time in
                                            each year.
     How a piece of land is held by         Title
     the owner.                             The right to own something.

     Term                                   Title deeds
     A clause which form part of a          The documents which prove
     contract.                              who owns a property and
                                            under what terms.
     Land.                                  Toll
                                            A payment in return for being
     Terrorism                              allowed to travel over a road,
     Using violence for political           bridge and so on.
     Testament                              Doing something which harms
     A will.                                someone else. Torts include
                                            wrongs such as:
     Testator                               G negligence,
     A person who makes a will.             G nuisance,

                                            G defamation,
     Testify                                G false imprisonment, and
     Give evidence.                         G trespass.

     Testimony                              Tortfeasor
     The evidence a witness gives           Someone who commits a tort.
     in court.


Tracing                                Trespass
Equitable right of a plaintiff to      Unlawful interference with
reclaim specific property,             another person or his property
through the court, where the           or rights.
property has passed on to
others.                                Trespassing
                                       Going on land without the
Trademark                              owner's permission.
A mark which is registered at
trademark registries and which         Trial
is used on products produced           An examination of the evidence
by the owner.                          in a case and the law which
The official record of a court case.   Tribunal
                                       A body set up to act like a
Transferable securities                court outside the normal court
Securities such as debentures          system. A forum to hear
which can have their ownership         disputes and with the authority
changed.                               to settle them
Transferee                             Trust
Person who receives property           A financial arrangement under
being transferred.                     which property is held by
                                       named people for someone else.
The person who transfers               Trust corporation
something to someone else.             A company which acts as a
                                       trustee and holds trust assets.
The crime of betraying your            Trust deed
country.                               A legal document which is used
                                       to create, change or control a
Treasure trove                         trust.
Treasure found in a hiding
place and whose owner cannot           Trustee
be traced.                             A person who holds property
                                       and looks after it on behalf of
                                       someone else.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     U                                      Unreasonable behaviour
                                            Behaviour by a married person
     Uberrimae fidei*                       that justifies the other partner
     Of the utmost good faith.              in the marriage living apart.

     Ultra vires*                           Unregistered company
     Beyond one's powers.                   A company which is not
                                            registered under the
     Underlease                             Companies Acts.
     The lease of a property by a
     tenant of the property to              Unregistered land
     someone else.                          Land which is not recorded in
                                            the Land Registry.
     A promise which can be                 Unsecured creditor
     enforced by law.                       Someone who has lent money
                                            without getting any security for
     Undue influence                        the loan.
     Unfair pressure which may
     invalidate a contract.
     Unfair contract terms
     Prevents a party to a contract         Variation
     unfairly limiting their liability.     Alteration of the terms of court
     Unfair dismissal
     Sacking an employee unfairly.          Vendee
                                            A person who buys something.
     Unit trust
     A trust which manages                  Vendor
     investments.                           A person who sells something.

     Unjust enrichment                      Verdict
     Profit unjustly obtain by              The jury's decision at the end
     a wrongdoer.                           of a case.

     Usury                                  Vexatious litigant
     Excessive or illegal interest rate.    A person who regularly brings
                                            court cases which have little
                                            chance of succeeding.

                                                       Vicarious liability

Vicarious liability               Warrant
Where someone becomes             A certificate which gives the
responsible under the law for     person holding it the right to buy
wrongs done by someone else.      shares at a given price; a Judge's
                                  written instruction to arrest
Videlicet*                        someone or to search a property.
That is to say.
Void                              (Bench Warrant) – An order
Without legal effect.             issued by a judge for the arrest
Voidable                          of a person, usually someone
                                  who has failed to turn up in
Able to be cancelled in certain   answer to a summons.
Voire dire†
                                  A term in a contract.
To speak the truth.
Volenti non fit injuria*
                                  Abuse, destruction or permanent
Those who consent may not be      change to property by a person
injured.                          who is merely in possession of it
Voluntary arrangement             such as a tenant.
An agreement between a debtor     Wayleave
and the creditors.                A right through or over a piece
                                  of land often for a particular
W                                 purpose, such as for a pipeline.

Waiver                            Will
Renunciation of a right or        A legal document which people
benefit.                          use to leave as a gift money
                                  and property when they die.
Ward of court
                                  Winding up
A person who is protected by
the High Court such as a          Disposing of all a company's
minor.                            assets and paying all its debts.
                                  Without prejudice
                                  The document may not be used
                                  as evidence that a contract or
                                  agreement exists.

     A Plain English Guide to Legal Terms

     Witness                                Wrongful trading
     Someone who watches a                  Continuing to trade while
     signature being put on                 knowing that there is little
     a document, and then signs as          prospect of the company being
     well to verify the signature's         able to pay its debts.
     authenticity; or attends court
     to testify about events they
     know about                             Y
     Words of art                           Year
     Words which have a fixed               When used without any other
     meaning in law so that their           qualification a 12-month
     use in a legal document can            calendar period beginning on
     have only one interpretation.          1st January.

     Words of limitation                    Young offender
     Words in a conveyance or will          A person between the ages of
     which limit the duration of an         14 and 17 who has committed
     estate.                                a crime.

     Words of purchase                      Young person
     Words in a conveyance or will          Person under 18 years.
     which specifically name the
     person to whom land is being
                                            Zero hours
     Writ of execution
                                            None, Nil.
     A type of writ used when a court
     judgement needs enforcing.
     A summons or order from a
     court of law.
     Wrongful dismissal
     Ending an employee's contract
     without following the contract's

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                                  Dublin 1,
                                  01 855 4332

What is the National Adult Literacy Agency?
The National Adult Literacy Agency (NALA) is a non-profit
membership organisation, concerned with national
co-ordination, training and policy development in adult
literacy work in Ireland. The Agency was established in 1980
and from that time has campaigned for recognition and
response to the adult literacy problem in Ireland.
NALA receives a grant from the Department of Education and
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