Latin Terms

Over 350 Latin terms

are explained in Real Estate Defined

from ab initio  to  volenti non fit injuria.

Some Latin Terms are easily translated and are part of every day usage in English, such as ex gratia; some Latin Terms are particularly significant to property law, such as  ad coelum usque ad inferos, ‘from heaven to hell’ (theoretically the extent of land ownership); and others are established rules of law, such as nec vi, nec clam, nec precario, ‘not by violence, not by stealth, not by entreaty’, which applies to a claim for adverse possession or prescription. (Latin Terms )


Latin Terms are a common feature of real property.

Roman land law introduced the central feature of :

• dominium

Dominium represents the absolute and exclusive right to property, whether land or movables—the right to alienate (or even destroy) property; the right to enjoy the fruits or produce of property; and the right to enjoy the use of property—

Latin Terms

‘Terms of the Law’

jus abutendi, jus fruendi, jus utendi. The only restraint being that which is imposed by law. In Roman law a man either had dominium over property or he had no ownership at all, there being no intervening forms of ownership or separate concurrent estate or interest in property, as in common law. Dominium is an indivisible unity that is recognized in most civil law jurisdictions. … [read more] (Latin Terms )

In Scots law, land was held in dominium utile, a right to hold land as a vassal, i.e. in recognition of a superior landowner. The superior holding a dominium directum, or superiority of the land, and the Crown held a dominium eminens. The feudal system of land tenure has been abolished with effect from Martinmas (28 November) 2004. From that date every other feudal estate in land ceased to exist, no new feudal estates can be created, and dominium utile has become “the ownership of land”, i.e. dominium or absolute ownership (Abolition of Feudal Tenures etc. (Scotland) Act 2000, s. 2). (Latin Terms )

In common law, a fundamental aspect of a joint tenancy is desribed using the Latin Term:

• jus accrescendi

A ‘right of survivorship’ or ‘right of accrual’. As in:

jus accrescendi praefertur oneribus

‘The right of survivorship is preferred to encumbrances’ (2 Co Litt 185a). A principle that in the case of a joint tenancy a charge or encumbrance (but not a mortgage) given by one of the joint tenants will not override the right of survivorship. Thus, if the grantor predeceases the other joint tenant the charge or encumbrance is extinguished. However … [read more]

Another important Latin Terms is expressed in the rule applied to avoid creating a nuisance

• sic utere tuo ut alienum non lædas

So use your property as not to interfere with that of others. A desirable but misleading maxim, as a landowner may be permitted to use his land and cause interference to another: “Persons living in organized communities must suffer some damage, annoyance, and inconvenience from each other. For these they are compensated by all the advantages of civilized society. If one lives in the city he must expect to suffer the dirt smoke, noisome odors, noise, and confusion incident to city life”, United States v. Luce, 141 F 385, 415 (1905). What is essential is that he does not cause damage that will be restrained or penalized by the law; “a useful test is perhaps what is reasonable according to the ordinary usages of mankind living in society, or more correctly in a particular society”, Sedleigh-Denfield v O’Callaghan [1940] AC 880, 903 (HL).  See encroachment, nuisance, strict liability.

For prescriptive rights to property:

• nec vi, nec clam, nec precario

Not by force, not by stealth, not by entreaty (not by violence, secrecy or permission). A term derived from Roman law to describe essential elements for establishing a right over land by prescription; to acquire such a right it must have been longus usus nec per vim, nec clam, nec precario (1 Co Litt 113b). A prescriptive right must not be claimed as a result of force or secret user, nor must the right have been obtained with permission. Thus, the claimant of a prescriptive right is endeavouring to establish that the person, against whom he is seeking to establish that right, voluntarily and openly acquiesced in the user; that is, the holder of the land had “1, a knowledge of the acts done; 2, a power in him to stop the acts or to sue in respect of them; and 3, an abstinence on his part from the exercise of such power”, Fry J in Dalton v Angus (1881) 6 App Cas 740, 774 (HL) (Newnham v Willison (1987) 56 P & CR 8, 17 (CA); R v Oxfordshire County Council, ex parte Sunningwell [2000] 1 AC 335, 350 (HL)).

In the event that a landowner takes steps to demonstrate that it opposes any use or entry on the land, as by erecting suitably worded signs, entry on the land may be considered ‘by force’. This is the case even if the signs are regularly removed after they have been replaced, as long as the steps taken to prevent the trespass are “proportionate to the use that the landowner wished to prevent”, Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd v Dorset County Council [2012] EWCA Civ 250, [2012] 11 EG 93 (CA).  See also adverse possession, as of right.

And from Contract Law:

animus contrahendi

The intention to enter into a contract. A principle derived from Roman law that requires an intention as one of the essential elements to establishing a contract. “Without the expressed or implied intention that a contract should emerge as a result of the language or conduct of the alleged parties, no contractual obligations can be said to exist or be capable of enforcement”, G.H.L. Friedman, The Law of Contract in Canada (4th ed. Scarborough, ON: 1999).


vis major

A greater force; an irresistible force. A force of nature or man that cannot be avoided by reasonable diligence, or by the exercising of prudence and care (National Carbon Co. v. Bankers Mortgage Co., 77 F.2d 614, 617 (10th Cir. Kan 1935); Pacific Vegetable Oil Corp. v. C. S. T., 29 Cal.2d 238, 174 P.2d 441, 447 (1946)). For example, a storm, a riot or a governmental act arising from the necessities of war. Vis major is used sometimes as synonymous with act of God, although it has been said that its meaning has been broadened to cover “any insuperable interference”, National Carbon Co. v. Bankers Mortgage Co., supra. Thus, especially in the civil law, it may be considered as more synonymous with force majeure. A person is not liable normally for a breach of contract caused by vis major.

Bibliographical References: Latin Terms & Roman Law:

Lawson, Frederick Henry. A Common Lawyer Looks at the Civil Law: five lectures delivered at the University of Michigan. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Law School, 1953. (Latin Terms )
Merryman, John Henry. The Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems of Western Europe and Latin America, 2nd ed. Stanford, CA: 1985. (Latin Terms )
Nicholas, Barry. An Introduction to Roman Law. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975. (Latin Terms )
Johnston, David. Roman Law in Context. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1999. (Latin Terms )

K.G.C. Reid. The Abolition of Feudal Tenures in Scotland(Haywards Heath, Sussex: 2003), §§ 1.4—1.27. (Latin Terms )

Note on Latin Terms:

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Terms in bold, including the Latin terms dominium, jus accrescendi, nec vi nec clam nec precario and prescription are defined and explained in detail, with cross-references, in the Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms, Third Edition; as well as ONLINE

These and more Latin Terms (over 400)

can be found in Real Estate Defined, or in the Encyclopedia of Real Estate Terms (Third Edition) including:

A   B   C   D    E   F    G   H   I   J-K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T  U   V

A   (Latin Terms)
a fortiori
a posteriori
a priori
ab extra
ab initio
ab intestato
absque hoc
absque impetitione vasti
accessio cedit principali
actio in personam
actio in rem
actio personalis mortitur cum persona
ad coelum usque ad centrum or ad coelum usque ad inferos
ad filum aquæ
ad filum viæ
ad hoc
ad idem
ad medium filum aquæ
ad medium filum or ad medium filum viæ
ad opus sum
ad valorem
adversus extraneos vitiosa possessio prodesse solet
aedificare in tuo proprio solo non licet quod alteri noceat
aedificatio [aedificatum] solo, solo cedit
aedificia solo cedunt
alienatio rei praefertur juri accrescendi
allegans contraria non est audiendus
altius non tollendi or non altius tollendi
alvei mutatio
ambiguitas contra stipulatorem est
ambiguum pactum contra venditorem interpretandum est
animus contrahendi
animus domini
animus possidendi
animus revertendi
aquæ ductus or aquaeductus(Civ)
aquæ haustus or aquaehaustus(Civ)
argentum Dei
autre vie

B   (Latin Terms)

benigne faciendæ sunt interpretationes chartarum, ut res magis valeat quam pereat
bona fide
bona fidei emptor
bona immobilia(Civ)

C   (Latin Terms)

caeteris paribus
causa causans
causa mortis
causa proxima et non remota spectatur
caveat emptor
caveat venditor
certum est …
ceteris paribus
clam, vi, aut precario
coloni partiaire or coloni partiarii
consensus ad idem
consuetudo est altera lex
continuous servitude(Civ)
contra bonos mores
contra proferentem
corpus possessionis
cujus est solum, ejus est usque ad coelum et ad inferos
cum testamento annexo

D   (Latin Terms)

damnum absque injuria
damnum fatale
damnum sentit dominus
damnum sine injuria esse potest
de cujus
de die in diem
De Donis Conditionalibus
de facto
de jure
de minimis non curat lex
de minimis
de novo
delegatus non potest delegare
discontinuous servitude
donatio mortis causa
Donis Conditionalibus
dotal property or dot property

E   (Latin Terms)

ejusdem generis
emptor (
f. emptrix)
en ventre sa mere
eo instanti
et al.
et uxor or et ux.
et vir
ex causa
ex contractu
ex debito
ex delicto
ex gratia
ex hypothesi
ex nudo pacto non oritur actio
ex parte
ex post facto
ex turpi causa non oritur actio
exceptio est strictissimae interpretationis
exempli gratia (e.g.)
expedit rei publicæ ne sua re quis mal utatur
expressio unius est exclusio alterius
expressum facit cessare tactium
extradotal property

F   (Latin Terms)

factum est
falsa demonstratio non nocet cum de corpore constat
falsa grammatica non vitiat chartam
feodum talliatum
feræ naturæ
fi. fa.
fieri facias
filum aquæ
force majeure
fructus industriales
fructus naturales
frustrum terræ

G   (Latin Terms)

generalibus verba sunt generaliter intelligenda


I   (Latin Terms)

ibid or ibidem

id certum est quod certum reddi potest
id est (i.e.)
ignorantia facti excusat, ignorantia juris non excusat
in ædificatio
in æquali jure melior est conditio possidentis
in alieno solo
in capite
in futuro
in lieu
in pais
in pari causa possessor potior haberi debet
in pari delicto potior est conditio possidentis
in personam
in rem
in situ
in specie
in terrorem
inclusio unius est exclusio alterius
index animi sermo est
infectum reddere quod factum
injuria absque damno or injuria sine damno
inter alia
inter esse termini
inter vivos
interesse termini
interest reipublicæ ut quilibet re sua bene utatur
intra vires
ipso facto
ius accrescendi

J   (Latin Terms)

jus abutendi, jus fruendi, jus utendi
jus accrescendi praefertur oneribus
jus accrescendi
jus disponendi
jus habendi et retinendi
jus in personam
jus in re(Civ)
jus in rem
jus pascendi
jus possessionis
jus possidendi
jus spatiandi
jus tertii
justus titulus

L   (Latin Terms)

laesæ fidei
lex loci actus
lex loci contractus
lex loci rei sitae or lex loci situs
lex loci
lex non cogit ad impossibilia
lex non scripta
lex rei situs or lex situs
lex scripta
lex terrae
lis pendens or lis pendente
locus contractus
locus in quo
locus regit actum
locus sigilli (LS)

M   (Latin Terms)

mala fide
manus mortua
medium filum aquæ
medium filum
mortis causa
mortuum vadium
mutatis mutandis

N   (Latin Terms)

nec vi, nec clam, nec precario
nemo contra factum suum [proprium] venite potest
nemo dare potest quod non habet
nemo dat qui (quod) non habet
nemo est heres viventis
nemo plus juris ad alium tranferre potest, quam ipse habet
non adimpleti contractus
non aedificandi
non altius toliendi
non est factum
non sequitur
noscitur a sociis
novus actus interveniens
nuda pacio obligationem non parit
nudum pactum
numerus clausus

O   (Latin Terms)

obiter dictum
omne quod [solo] inædificatur solo cedit
omnes licentiam habere his quæ pro se indulta sunt, renunciare
omnes res suas liberas et quietas haberet
opus citatum

P (Latin Terms)

pacta sunt servanda or pactum est servandum
paraphernal property(Civ)
parcella terrae
pari passu
pedis possessio
pendente lite
per annum (p.a.)
per autre vie
per capita
per centum
per curiam [per cur]
per diem
per mensum
per pais
per pro or per procurationem
per quod
per se
per stirpes
periculum est emptoris
possessio naturalis
potior est condito possidentis
prædium dominans(Civ)
prædium serviens(Civ)
prima facie
pro emptore
pro rata
pro tanto
publici juris
pur autre vie

Q   (Latin Terms)

quælibet concessio fortissime contra donatorem interpretanda est
quantum damnificatus
quantum meruit
quantum valebat
quare clausum fregit
qui approbate non reprobat
qui facit per alium facit per se
qui prior est tempore, potior est jure or qui prior est in tempore, prior est in jure
qui sentit commodum sentire debet et onus
Quia Emptores
quid pro quo
quidquid plantatur solo, solo credit
quiete clamare
quietus redditus
quod aedificatur in area legate cedit legato
quod certum reddi potest
quod meum est sine me auferri non potest
quod vide (q.v.)

R  (Latin Terms)

ratio decidendi
ratione soli
ratione tenuræ suæ
ratione tenuræ
real contract(Civ)
rebus sic stantibus
reditus assisus
reditus quieti
reditus siccus
res communes
res corporales(Civ)
res derelictæ
res extincta
res gestae
res immobiles(Civ)
res incorporales(Civ)
res ipsa loquitor
res judicata
res mobiles(Civ)
res nullius
res periit domino or res perit suo domino
res sua nemini servit
resoluto jure concedentis resolvitur [jus] concessum
respondeat superior
restitutio in integrum

S   (Latin Terms)

sale by aversionem(Civ)
sale per aversionem(Civ)
salvo jure
scienti non fit injuria
scintilla temporis
service real(Civ)
sic utere tuo ut alienum non lædas
solo cedit quod solo implantur
solo cedit quod solo inædificatur
specialia generalibus derogant
spes successionis
stare decisis
status quo ante
status quo
suggestio falsi
suggestio veri
sui generis
sui juris
superficies solo cedit
suppressio veri, suggestio falsi
suppressio veri
suspensive condition(Civ)

T   (Latin Terms)

tenor est qui legem dat feudo
terra firma
terra nullius
titulus est justa causa
turpis causa

U  (Latin Terms)

uberrimæ fidei
uberrima fides
ultra vires
usque ad coelum
usque ad medium filum aquæ
usus fructus

V  (Latin Terms)

vacantia bona
vacua possessio or vacuo possessio
vadium vivum
verba accipienda sunt secundum subjectum materiam
verba chartarum fortius accipiuntur contra proferentem
verba ita sunt intelligenda ut res magis valeat quam pereat
vi et armis
vi, clam, precario
videlicet (viz.)
vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt
vis major
vitium reale
viva voce
vivum vadium or vadium vivum
volenti non fit injuria

(Civ)  refers to terms used predominately in the Civil Law.

The above are some of the Latin Terms, and Civil Law Terms, that are defined and, in many cases explained, in RealEsateDefined

Latin Terms