Must-Know Legal Maxims and Terms For Lawyers and Law Students

Did you know Ab initio meant from the very beginning while Prima Facie meant at first sight in law? You will often find lawyers using such phrases while speaking or drafting articles, these are known as legal maxims. 

Legal maxims are used everywhere from legal paperwork to legal examinations. As Geometry has axioms, in law there are legal maxims. Legal maxims are propositions usually stated in Latin that elucidate legal principles or concepts. 

These Latin maxims originated from the Medieval era in the European states that used Latin as their legal language. Various maxims are used in different subjects of law like the contract, tort, crimes, etc.

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Let’s see some of them and their meanings-

Related Explanation 
1) Actionable per se
The very act itself is punishable and no proof of damage is required.

Actions do not require allegations of additional facts to constitute an action. Such torts are actionable simply because they take place.It is usually used in cases of defamation and trespass, battery, etc.
2) Actus Reus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea An Act does not make anyone guilty unless there is criminal intent or a guilty mind. This maxim is used to determine whether an act committed is criminal or not. It explains that any action to be illegal must be done with criminal intent. 
3)Actio Personalis Moritur Cum Persona
A personal right of action dies with the person According to this maxim, actions of tort or contract are destroyed by the death of the injured party. Some legal actions cannot be brought against persons after the person dies.
4) Audi alteram partem Hear the other side, No man shall be condemned unheard.This maxim is applied to ensure fair play and justice to persons that are affected. Both the parties should be heard. It states that every person should be given to defend himself to prove his innocence.
5) BonafideIn good faith.Bonafide means real or genuine. If any act is done bonafide then the person is not held guilty if some mishap occurs. Example-We are happy to donate to bona fide charitable causes.
6) Bona VacantiaGoods without an owner
Bona vacantia stands for vacant goods” or “ownerless goods. It is a legal term used for the situation in which property is left without any clear owner. The bona vacantia property may have been abandoned, mislaid, or forgotten by the owner.
7)Damnum sine Injuria .Damage without injuryThis legal maxim refers to damages without injury or damages in which there is no infringement of a legal right. Since there is no infringement of legal right no cause of action arises in cases of Damnum sine injuria.
8)De Minimis Non Curat Lex  The law does not concern itself with triflesDe minimis doctrine is applied by a court to avoid resolving trivial matters that are not worthy of judicial scrutiny. The law encourages people to solve petty matters where the impact of the breach is negligible for technical breaches and rules instead of filing lawsuits. 
9)Doli Incapax
Incapable of crime. 
According to the Criminal law of India, a child below the age of 7 is considered to be doli incapax. It is used to describe a presumption of innocence for children.
10)Fraus est celare fraudem

It is a fraud to conceal a fraud 
Fraud is a criminal deception that intends to result in financial or personal gain so it is wrong to conceal any fraud or fraudulent activities. 
11)Ignorantia Facti Excusat Ignorantia Juris Non ExcusatIgnorance of fact is excusable but not ignorance of law. 
It is a Latin legal maxim that means ignorance of a fact can be an excuse. Acts done under a mistaken impression of material facts are excused however, ignorance of the law is not an excuse or can be taken up as a defense. 
12)Lex specialis derogat legi generalis  Special law repeals general law.It is a doctrine that relates to the interpretation of laws and can apply in both domestic law and international contexts. If two laws have the same factual situation then the law governing specific subject matter(Lex Specialis)overrides law governing only general matters (Lex generalis)   
13)Nemo bis punitur pro codem delicto Nobody can be punished twice for the same offense.This maxim elucidates that no one shall be placed in peril or punished for a second time for the same offense after the person has already been convicted for the same offense prior. 
14)Onus ProbandiThe Burden of proof.According to this maxim. It is a term used to indicate that if no evidence is set forth by the party who has the burden to establish the existence of facts supporting the issue then the issue must be found against that party.
15)Qui facit per alium,Facit per se He who acts through another acts himself.Qui facit per alium facit per se is a fundamental legal maxim of the law of agency. It is a maxim often stated in discussing the liability of the employer for the act of an employee in terms of vicarious liability.
16)Quid Pro quo – Something in return for something.It describes a situation where two parties engage in a mutual agreement to exchange goods or services reciprocally.
17)Res ipsa loquiturThe thing speaks for itself.

It is a legal theory that allows the court to presume that negligence had occurred based on facts and surrounding circumstances. Normally a plaintiff has the burden to prove that the defendant owed a duty to perform, but due to his failed conduct negligence occurred. However, in res ipsa loquitur, the defendant’s negligence is presumed and thus there is no need of proving the defendant’s guilt.
18)Ubi Jus Ibi Remedium Where there is right there is a remedy.According to this maxim where there is a right there is always a remedy. This principle states that where a right is infringed or invaded, the law gives a remedy to protect it or compensate by giving damages for loss incurred. In law, the term “remedy”, includes a right of action. 
19)Sui GenersiOf its own kind/genus.
It is a Latin phrase that specifies uniqueness
20)Volenti Non- Fit InjuriaTo the consenting no injury is done.It is a doctrine that states that if harm is taken voluntarily, or a party willingly places themselves in a position where harm might result or by giving consent then the party consenting cannot bring up a claim against another party..


Apurva Surve- Intern

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