Person “Legally” Defined

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




An individual or an organization [UCC § 1201(30)]. An individual man, woman, or child or, as a general rule, a corporation [18 AM J2d Corp § 20]. Inclusive of bodies politic and corporation [Waterbury v. Board of Com. 10 Mont. 515, 26 P 1002]. As used in the Bankruptcy Act, inclusive of corporations, officers, partnerships, and women, except where otherwise specified [Bankruptcy Act § 1(23); 11 USC § 1(23)]. Under the negotiable Instruments Law, an individual or a body of persons whether incorporated or not [Uniform Negotiable Instruments Law § 191]. As used in the anti-trust laws, inclusive of corporations and associations [36 Am J1st Monop etc § 186]. Inclusive of corporations where used in a statute imposing a license tax [33 Am J1st Lic § 49]. Usually inclusive of corporations in a tax statute [51 Am J1st W & L § 5]. Inclusive of corporations in a pure food law [State v. Belle Springs Creamery Co. 83 Kan 389, 111 P 474]. For the purposes of the due process clause, either a citizen or an alien [3 Am J2d Aliens § 8]. For the purposes of extradition, either a citizen or an alien [31 Am J2d Extrad § 17].

A corporation is deemed a “person” within the meaning of the statute of limitations, and consequently, the statute ordinarily runs against corporations and domestic corporations are generally included within the class of persons who may plead the statute, and they may, as a general rule, acquire title by adverse possession for the statutory period in the same manner and to the same extent as an individual [34 Am J1st Lim Ac § 372]. A municipal corporation is a “person” within the meaning of the statute of limitations [ 34 Am J1st Lim Ac § 397].

Liquor license laws may either expressly permit, or be held susceptible of a construction which authorizes corporations to be licensed thereunder, and the word “person,” as used in such legislation, is usually held to embrace a corporation, irrespective of whether there is an express provision to that effect in the license law or in general law [30 Am J Rev ed Intox L § 126].

The word “person,” where used in statutes defining crimes, is usually construed to include a corporation, so as to bring corporations within the prohibition of the statute [19 Am J2d Corp § 1436].

Dependent upon the entire context of the instrument, the word “person,” as used in a will, may or may not include a corporation [57 Am J1st Wills § 1326].



  1. This word is applied to men, women, and children, who are called natural persons. In law, man and person are not exactly synonymous terms. Any human being is a man, whether he be a member of society or not, whatever may be the rank he holds, or whatever may be his age, sex, etc. A person is a man considered according to the rank he holds in society, with all the rights to which the place he holds entitles him, and the duties which it imposes [1 Bouv. Inst. n. 137].
  2. It is also used to denote a corporation which is an artificial person [1 Bl. Com. 123; 4 Bing. 669; C. 33 Eng. C.L R. 488; Wooddes. Lect. 116; Bac. Us. 57; 1 Mod. 164].
  3. But when the word “Persons” is spoken of in legislative acts, natural persons will be intended, unless something appear in the context to show that it applies to artificial persons [1 Scam. R. 178].
  4. Natural persons are divided into males, or men; and females or women. Men are capable of all kinds of engagements and functions, unless by reasons applying to particular individuals. Women cannot be appointed to any public office, nor perform any civil functions, except those which the law specially declares them capable of exercising [Civ. Code of Louis, art. 25].
  5. They are also sometimes divided into free persons and slaves. Freemen are those who have preserved their natural liberty, that is to say, who have the right of doing what is not forbidden by the law. A slave is one who is in the power of a master to whom he belongs. Slaves are sometimes ranked not with persons but things. But sometimes they are considered as persons for example, a negro is in contemplation of law a person, so as to be capable of committing a riot in conjunction with white men [1 Bay, 358].
  6. Persons are also divided into citizens, and aliens, when viewed with regard to their political rights. When they are considered in relation to their civil rights, they are living or civilly dead; vide Civil Death; outlaws; and infamous persons.
  7. Persons are divided into legitimates and bastards, when examined as to their rights by birth.
  8. When viewed in their domestic relations, they are divided into parents and children; husbands and wives; guardians and wards; and masters and servants son, as it is understood in law [see 1 Toull. n. 168; 1 Bouv. Inst. b. 1890, note].



A man considered according to the rank he holds in society, with all the rights to which the place he holds entitles him, and the duties which it imposes [1 Bouv. Inst. no. 137].

A human being considered as capable of having rights and of being charged with duties; while a “thing” is the object which rights may be exercised.

  • Artificial persons: such as are created and devised bu law for the purposes of society and government, called “corporations” or “bodies politic.”
  • Natural persons: such as are formed by nature, as distinguished from artificial persons, or corporations.
  • Private person: an individual who is not the incumbent of an office.



PERSON, n. per’sn. [L. persona; said to be compounded of per, through or by, and sonus, sound; a Latin word signifying primarily a mask used by actors on the state.]

1. An individual human being consisting of body and soul. We apply the word to living beings only, possessed of a rational nature; the body when dead is not called a person. It is applied alike to a man, woman or child.
A person is a thinking intelligent being.
2. A man, woman or child, considered as opposed to things, or distinct from them.
A zeal for persons is far more easy to be perverted, than a zeal for things.
3. A human being, considered with respect to the living body or corporeal existence only. The form of her person is elegant.
You’ll find her person difficult to gain.
The rebels maintained the fight for a small time, and for their persons showed no want of courage.
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