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100 Words to a Better 

Legal Vocabulary 
A Free E-Book from Law School 101

Law is defined as “the system of rules, which a particular country or

community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members; and which
The roots of the present legal education scheme can be traced back to the
period of pre-independence. Many of our freedom fighters have been law
graduates, including Mahatma Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru. Even the
Mughals had the concept of lawyers!
it may enforce by the imposition of penalties”.

Several thousand students will enter law school in hopes of becoming a

lawyer one day. Some students will make it to the end and achieve that
dream. Others might not even make it through the first year.

There is a ton of advice out there, between books, blogs and people,
regarding law school, but before all that comes the basic vocabulary
required to succeed as lawyers!
This document gives you a sense of what exactly to look forward to and how
to basically improve your legal vocabulary.
It's pretty easy if you decide to learn about 5 words a day and you're good to

In this demanding, competitive and stressful world, here's a list of

handpicked legal vocabulary to help you study smarter!

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Legal Vocabulary

Serial Word Meaning

1 Infringement An act that disregards an agreement or a
2 Malfeasance Doing something illegal or morally wrong.
Malfeasance includes dishonesty and abuse
of authority.
3 Arraignment A proceeding in which a criminal defendant
is brought into court, told of the charges in
an indictment or information, and asked to
plead guilty or not guilty.
4 Writ a legal document issued by a court or judicial
5 Allegation s​omething that someone says happened.
6 Magistrate a lay judge or civil authority who administers
the law
7 Embezzlement the fraudulent appropriation of funds or
8 Jurisprudence the branch of philosophy concerned with the

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9 Espionage the systematic use of spies to obtain secrets
10 Estoppel a rule of evidence whereby a person is barred
from denying the truth of a fact that has
already been settled
11 Deed a legal document to effect a transfer of
12 Foreclosure proceedings initiated to repossess the
collateral for a loan

13 Voir dire The process by which judges and lawyers

select a jury from among those eligible to
serve, by questioning them to determine
knowledge of the facts of the case and a
willingness to decide the case only on the
evidence presented in court.

14 Refutation the act of determining that something is

15 Abate Eliminate an issue, such as a government or
private nuisance or a structure constructed
contrary to public policy.

16 Abrogate to annul or repeal a law or pass legislation

that contradicts the prior law.
17 Aleatory uncertain; usually applied to insurance

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contracts in which payment is dependent on
the occurrence of a contingent event, such as
injury to the insured person in an accident
or fire damage to his insured building.
18 Appellee In some jurisdictions the name used for the
party who has won at the trial court level,
but the loser (appellant) has appealed the
decision to a higher court.
19 Bequeath to give personal property under provisions of
a will (as distinct from "devise," which is to
give real estate)
20 Bifurcate the order or ruling of a judge that one issue
in a case can be tried to a conclusion or a
judgment given on one phase of the case
without trying all aspects of the matter.
21 Caveat (kah-vee-ott) from Latin caveat for "let him
beware." a warning or caution.

22 Champerty an agreement between the party suing in a

lawsuit (plaintiff) and another person,
usually an attorney, who agrees to finance
and carry the lawsuit in return for a
percentage of the recovery

23 Churning the unethical and usually illegal practice of

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excessive buying and selling of shares of
stock for a customer by a stockbroker or
sales agent for the purpose of obtaining high
sales commissions.
24 Codicil a written amendment to a person's will,
which must be dated, signed and witnessed
just as a will would be, and must make some
reference to the will it amends.
25 Cy pres doctrine (see-pray doctrine) from French, meaning
"as close as possible."
26 Reprieve a judge suspending or cancelling
punishment for an offence.
27 Testator A person who takes a will.
28 Tribunal A body set up to act like a court but outside
the normal court system
29 Culpa Blameworthiness or a fault
30 Arbitration Submitting a case or a dispute to designated
parties for a decision, instead of a judge.
31 Decree An order by a court
32 Derogation Damaging someone’s rights or entitlement.
33 Domicile The country where your permanent home is.

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34 Euthanasia Killing someone to end their suffering.
35 Freehold describing land that only the owner has any
rights over
36 Outlaw A person who was not protected by the law
37 Plaintiff the person who goes to court to make a claim
against someone else. (Since April 1999, this
term has been replaced with 'Claimant'.)
38 Incarceration Confinement to a state prison or correctional
39 Plead To declare to the court whether you are
guilty or not
40 Pre-emption the right to buy property before others are
given the chance to buy
41 Proviso a clause in a legal document which qualifies
another section of the agreement.
42 Quango an organisation set up by the Government to
do a particular activity. It is partly
independent and does not form part of the
43 Accretion an increase in the share of a beneficiary in an
estate, as when a co-beneficiary fails to take
his share

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44 Comply Act in accordance with someone’s rules or
45 Exert Put to use
46 Vigor Forceful exertion
47 Precept A doctrine that is taught
48 Contrive Make or work out a plan for
49 Alibi a defence by an accused person that he was
elsewhere at the time the crime in question
was committed
50 Commence Set in motion
51 amicus curiae a person not directly engaged in a case who
advises the court
52 Appendant a subordinate right or interest, esp in or over
land, attached to a greater interest and
automatically passing with the sale of the
53 Arbiter someone chosen to judge and decide a
disputed issue
54 Imminent Close in time
55 adjudication The final judgement in a legal proceeding.
56 Chattels Movable property

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57 Barratry the vexatious stirring up of quarrels or
bringing of lawsuits
58 Infringe Advance beyond the usual limit
59 Reprehensible bringing or deserving severe rebuke or
60 Frivolous So unmeritorious as to require no argument
to convince the court of this fact.
61 Opine express one's view openly and without fear
or hesitation
62 Erroneous containing or characterized by mistakes
63 Concomitant following or accompanying as a consequence
64 Bigamy A crime of marrying someone who is already
legally married to someone else.
65 Misfeasance Doing a lawful event in an unlawful manner
66 Caption t​he formal heading of a legal document
stating when, where, and on what authority
it was taken or made

67 Nullity Something that has no legal effect

68 Plebiscite A vote determining a public opinion on a

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69 Ratification Making something valid by formally
confirming it
70 Caveat A formal notice requesting the court or
officer to refrain from taking some specified
action without giving prior notice to the
person lodging the caveat
71 Collegial Having authority vested equally among
72 Competency capacity to testify in a court of law; eligibility
to be sworn
73 Compurgation a method of trial whereby a defendant might
be acquitted if a sufficient number of
persons swore to his innocence
74 Connivance the tacit encouragement of or assent to
another's wrongdoing, esp (formerly) of the
petitioner in a divorce suit to the
respondent's adultery

75 owelty Equality especially in financial transactions

76 paraphernalia articles of personal property given to a
married woman by her husband before or
during marriage and regarded in law as her
possessions over which she has some
measure of control

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77 Pecuniary means concerning or involving money​.
78 primogeniture the right of the eldest son to succeed to the
estate of his ancestor to the exclusion of all
79 Probate the act or process of officially proving the
authenticity and validity of a will
80 Tort a civil wrong arising from an act or failure to
act, independently of any contract, for which
an action for personal injury or property
damages may be brought
81 Vexatious (of a legal action or proceeding) instituted
without sufficient grounds, esp so as to cause
annoyance or embarrassment to the
82 Onomastic denoting a signature in a different
handwriting from that of the document to
which it is attached
83 Gravamen that part of an accusation weighing most
heavily against an accused
84 Hypothecate to pledge (personal property or a ship) as
security for a debt without transferring
possession or title
85 Judiciary the branch of the central authority in a state
concerned with the administration of justice

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86 Larceny The taking of personal property without
consent and with the intention of
permanently depriving the owner of it
87 Litigation the act or process of bringing or contesting a
legal action in court
88 Mayhem the wilful and unlawful infliction of injury
upon a person, esp (formerly) the injuring or
removing of a limb rendering him less
capable of defending himself against attack
89 Mens rea a criminal intention or knowledge that an act
is wrong. It is assumed to be an ingredient of
all criminal offences although some minor
statutory offences are punishable
irrespective of it
90 Misjoinder the improper joining of parties as
co-plaintiffs or codefendants or of different
causes of action in one suit
91 Advocacy The act of pleading a case in court
92 Committal the process by which a court officially sends
someone to prison or for a trial in a higher
93 Dissent an official statement in which a judge states
that they disagree with the other judges in a
legal case

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94 Interlocutory relating to the period in a civil case between
the official start of the case and its end. The
adjective interim is usually used now.
95 Justiciability the fact of being able to be subject to a court
96 Notary public A public official who is authorized to
witness signatures on documents, to
administer oaths, and to perform other
tasks, such as attesting to the genuineness of
various papers.
97 Scrip A certificate indicating the right of the
holder to receive payment in the future in
the form of money, land, or goods
98 Subpoena document ordering an individual to appear
in court and give testimony. Failure to
appear, without good reason, may lead to the
imposing of a penalty.
99 Surrogate One who acts for another.
100 Zoning The division of certain areas in a community
into various categories for permission to
build, or not to build, certain types of

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