Society “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “society” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition), Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (6th edition), Black’s Law Dictionary (2nd edition), and “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:”




The community. The people of the community or considered as a whole in state or nation. The associates which one has. A voluntary association, sometimes a corporation, organized and existing for the mutual benefit of its members in patriotic, religious, charitable, or professional pursuits or for providing benefits in case of illness or disability of a member or for his widow or children in the event of his death.


A society is a number of persons united together by mutual consent, in order to deliberate, determine, and act jointly for some common purpose.

Societies are either incorporated and known to the law, or unincorporated, of which the law does not generally take notice.

By civil society is usually understood a state, (q. v.) a nation, (q. v.) or a body politic (q. v.) [Rutherf. Inst. c. 1 and 2.].

In the civil law, by society is meant a partnership [Inst. 3, 26; Dig. 17, 2 Code, 4, 37].



An association or company of persons (generally not incorporated) united together for any mutual or common purpose. In a wider sense, the community or public; the people in general [See New York County Medical Ass’n v. New York, 32 Mise. Rep. 116, 65 N.Y. Supp. 531; Josey v. Union L. & T. Co., 106 Ga. 608, 32 S.E. 628; Gilmer v. Stone, 120 U.S. 586, 7 Sup. Ct. 689, 30 L. Ed. 734].

Soci mei socius meus socius non est. The partner of my partner is not my partner [Dig. 50, 17, 47, 1].



1. The union of a number of rational beings; or a number of persons united, either for a temporary or permanent purpose. Thus the inhabitants of a state or of a city constitute a society, having common interests; and hence it is called a community. In a more enlarged sense, the whole race or family of man is a society, and called human society. The true and natural foundation of society, are the wants and fears of individuals.

2. Any number of persons associated for a particular purpose, whether incorporated by law, or only united by articles of agreement; a fraternity. Thus we have bible societies for various objects; societies for mechanics, and leaned societies; societies for encouraging arts, &c.

3. Company; a temporary association of persons for profit or pleasure. In this sense, company is more generally used.

4. Conpany; fellowship. We frequent the society of those we love and esteem.

5. Partnership; fellowship; union on equal terms. Among unequals what society can sort? Heav’n’s greatness no society can bear.

6. Persons living in the same neighborhood, who frequently meet in company and have fellowship. Literary society renders a place interesting and agreeable.

7. In Connecticut, a number of families united and incorporated for the purpose of supporting public worship, is called an ecclesiastical society. This is a parish, except that it has not territorial limits. In Massachusetts, such as incorporated society is usually called a parish, though consisting of persons only, without regard to territory.

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