75 List of Legal Words To Know

The law, scenarios involving its enactment, and the legal environment are full of words people don’t use in everyday situations. Read our list of legal words.

In this article, we’ve collected an exhaustive list of legal words you may encounter and what they mean. We’ve also included example sentences containing these words to help you better understand how to use them.

What Are Legal Words?

List of legal words to know
Writers use legal words to specify something (a process, status, decision, etc.) in their writing

Legal words are jargon or terms with specific meanings for legal contexts. Writers use legal words to specify something (a process, status, decision, etc.) in their writing. Below is a list of the words we’ve collected, their meaning, and how to use them.

Ab initioCustodyMoving party
ActionDe factoNe exeat
Actus reusDefendantNotarize
Ad hocDepositionPerjury
Ad idemDetention orderPetition
Ad infinitumDiscoveryPlaintiff
AdjournmentDismissalPlea bargain
AdjudicationDocketPretrial conference
AffidavitEt seqPretrial hearing
Amicus curiaeEvidencePro bono
AnnulmentEx parteProsecutor
ArraignmentExtraditionProtective order
ArrestFelonyPublic defender
Automatic ordersFinancial affidavitQuash
Bona fideForeclosureQuasi
BriefForemanRecusal
Burden of proofGrand juryRestraining order
Case fileIn-cameraSeal
Case lawIncome withholding orderSubpoena
Cause of actionJuvenile delinquentSummons
Caveat emptorLaw librarianTitle
Child supportLegal separationTranscript
Civil caseMalfeasanceWitness
ComplaintMens reaWrit
Criminal caseMinorYouthful offender

Latin Legal Words

These words are Latin phrases adopted into modern law and used as standard terms. When you write a legal paper, you don’t need to explain what they mean. Don’t forget to research what these Latin legal words mean before you use them in your writing.

  1. Ad hoc

The ad hoc committee could only make decisions about this once-in-a-lifetime issue.

  1. Caveat emptor

Caveat emptor applies in the house-buying industry, especially since it’s difficult to back out of a house sale.

  1. Ad infinitum

After the trial, he became excommunicated from their town ad infinitum.

  1. Et seq

We entered all her diaries from 2011 et seq. as evidence yesterday, so I don’t know why it’s not listed.

  1. Actus reus

Tamika Flynn’s lawyers introduced an actus reus element when they implied your actions were not for self-defense.

  1. Ab initio

Use the term “ab initio” instead of “from the beginning,” which uses up twice as many characters as the former.

  1. Ex parte

Because it was an ex-parte motion, he received a temporary restraining order from his ex-wife.

  1. Pro bono

How do you expect me to succeed as an attorney if all the cases you give me are pro bono?

  1. Ad idem

They succeeded in finding the halfway point and created a contract ad idem to all their sentiments.

  1. Bona fide

The excellent news is that your grandmother was wise enough to check if he was a bona fide buyer before she gave him her details.

  1. Quasi

The psychiatrist expert efficiently explained to the court how a quasi-test would never be enough to give a diagnosis.

  1. In-camera

The retrial of the teenage serial killers was held in-camera after deliberating how damaging it would be to society.

  1. Amicus curiae

I could freely watch the legal proceedings of the Heard-Depp case since I was an amicus curia.

  1. Mens rea

They can’t call it a murder without knowing what his mens rea is.

  1. De facto

Anybody can easily take your thirty-year relationship as a de facto marriage.

  1. Ne exeat

Reyes received a ne exeat, so he needs to stay in town until the case gets resolved.

Check out our list of interjection words.

Pre-Trial Legal Words

While these pre-trial legal words appear throughout legal proceedings; they often come up before a trial. Like lawyers, writers can use them in their writings to give their readers an idea about how a court case will go.

  1. Arraignment

Do you prefer showing up for your arraignment or risk looking bad to your family?

  1. Discovery

During discovery, we learned she constantly beat and berate him and their kids.

  1. Grand jury

She wants to be a part of the grand jury for the Pimento fraud case because she believed she could be objective now.

  1. Pretrial conference

Jones and his team seemed confident in their evidence and witnesses at the pretrial conference.

  1. Pretrial hearing

The crazy woman who got caught last week didn’t get a trial because she pled guilty in yesterday’s pretrial hearing.

  1. Deposition

Someone will listen to your testimony to decide whether you need to give a deposition.

  1. Cause of action

The plaintiff’s cause of action included attempted arson, attempted manslaughter, and theft.

  1. Recusal

Despite his expertise, we asked for the recusal of the veteran accountant and lawyer Chester D’Angelo.

  1. Malfeasance

Consider using malfeasance instead of unlawful activity if you want to use fancy legal words in your statement

  1. Subpoena

Your Honor, my client didn’t even know she had a subpoena because it was never delivered to her house.

  1. Summons

The policewoman showed my father a paper and called it a summons, and then they went away in her police car.

  1. Extradition

You’ll be hearing more from Harold soon about Manny’s extradition to Mexico.

Trial-Related Legal Words

Here are more words people often use or associate with a court hearing or trial. Writers can use this jargon to sound more reliable and knowledgeable in legal proceedings.

  1. Action

In legal terms, an action refers to a claim you can make using the law.

  1. Civil case

Disputes on child abuse and spousal or partner abuse fall under the civil case category.

  1. Criminal case

You’re not seriously thinking of naming your book Criminal Case, aren’t you?

  1. Case law

Many lawyers will bring up relevant case laws to bolster their arguments in a court hearing.

  1. Perjury

Lying is never a good idea, especially during a court hearing. You’d be committing perjury if you lied.

  1. Affidavit

Our client never mentioned the watershed or your land in his affidavit.

  1. Burden of proof

Thanks to the burden of proof, she will remain innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

  1. Quash

She had excellent lawyers who made a motion to quash to give her more time to talk to her key witness.

  1. Plea bargain

Kim Wexler is one of the best attorneys to have on your side if you want a reasonable plea bargain.

  1. Felony

How many first-class lawyers with felony records have you met?

  1. Adjudication

The judge’s adjudication gave many viewers hope and inspiration to fight against human trafficking.

  1. Adjournment

The adjournment occurred after eight hours of a lengthy and tedious hearing.

  1. Evidence

The cops used his testimony and actions in his interrogation video as evidence of his guilt.

Document-Related Legal Words

The legal process relies on detailed and proper documentation. Because of its pivotal role, we have many words for various document-related ideas, actions, or items. Writers should know when to use the correct legal words when writing a legal paper.

  1. Notarize

Whether you agree to a contract or land title, always notarize your legal papers.

  1. Brief

She had to write eight drafts before she settled for her final brief.

  1. Complaint

I noticed the atmosphere change when they received Marquez’s complaint.

  1. Petition

This morning, two court officers from opposite sides of the country received a petition regarding the McLaughlin case.

  1. Title

You can’t say you own the property if you don’t have a title to prove it.

  1. Transcript

My future lawyers can get the transcript from the court.

  1. Writ

I gave the young, aspiring lawyers an interactive exercise to better understand writs.

  1. Case file

They found particular papers left unused as evidence in the case file.

  1. Docket

I added your case to Judge Mahoney’s docket for Thursday, so you owe me.

  1. Financial affidavit

The lawyers told Indigo they needed a financial affidavit to prove her innocence.

  1. Foreclosure

My mother told me the foreclosure order arrived in the mail this morning.

Court Order Legal Words

These legal words are associated with a court order or decision. Use them in your writing to tell the reader how a case ended.

  1. Dismissal

She regretted not taking the chance to renew the case after it ended with a dismissal.

  1. Income withholding order

Liandra asked the judge not to include an income withholding order.

  1. Annulment

Today, fewer Catholic couples get annulments because they’re costly.

  1. Automatic orders

Yani didn’t know that some automatic orders took place after the custody case began.

  1. Legal separation

After spending ten months in court, the judge finally gave them a legal separation.

  1. Custody

He wanted to take custody of his child with her after he found out that she abused their little girl whenever she had no more money left.

  1. Restraining order

Nicki filed a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend after he attempted to enter her domicile without her permission.

  1. Child support

The reason why Tomas had been so diligent at work was that he had to withhold child support payments for his two daughters.

  1. Seal

I’m glad that the seal exists to protect youths like me, who probably would’ve had no chance at a future like this.

  1. Arrest

She was given the time to say her goodbyes before her arrest.

  1. Protective order

Unfortunately, the protective order hadn’t been enough to keep the unhinged husband from his wife.

  1. Detention order

Did you know that Teresa received a detention order when she was only 16?

Person Legal Words

These legal words allude to persons or roles in a legal setting or court. Writers use them to differentiate specific parties.  

  1. Law Librarian

The best thing about being a law librarian is my free access to fast Wi-Fi.

  1. Juvenile delinquent

He lied to Leona about not being a juvenile delinquent.

  1. Youthful offender

Because of Nilah’s status as a youthful offender, her records were kept private.

  1. Foreman

The foreman delivered Rosaline’s verdict effortlessly.

  1. Minor

She received leniency because she was a minor.

  1. Moving party

The moving party requested a private hearing.

  1. Public defender

Patrick became a public defender after years of practice.

  1. Prosecutor

It was Jack’s dream to become a prosecutor one day.

  1. Witness

Denise entered the courtroom as a key witness.

  1. Plaintiff

Did you know that the older word for a plaintiff is the claimant?

  1. Defendant

Saul Goodman has tried being in the positions of defendant, plaintiff, and lawyer.

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Author

  • Maria Caballero is a freelance writer who has been writing since high school. She believes that to be a writer doesn't only refer to excellent syntax and semantics but also knowing how to weave words together to communicate to any reader effectively.