Law “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “law” 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):




The whole body of rules of conduct applied and enforced under the authority of established government in determining that which is proper and should be permitted and that which should be denied, or even penalized, in respect of the relation between a person and the state, between him and society, or between him and another individual, including a provision of the constitution, a legislative enactment or statute, a municipal ordinance, a principle declared in an authoritative decision of a court, a rule of practice prescribed by a legislature or promulgated by a court acting with authority, even, to some extent, a usage or custom [Strother v. Lucas (US) 12 Pete 410, 9 L Ed 1137].

There is no word in the language which, in its popular and technical application, takes a wider or more diversified signification. In its popular sense, and in common acceptation, by those for whom laws are made, the word includes the whole body or system of rules of conduct, but it does not include that refined, technical and astute idea which recognizes nothing within the meaning of the term which is not constitutionally and technically perfect [Miller v. Dunn, 72 Cal 462, 14 P 27; see also 1 Bl Comm 44].

The constitution of the state is “a law of the state” within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States, prohibiting states from passing laws impairing the obligation of contract [Bier v. McGehee, 148 US 137, 37 L Ed 397, 13 S Ct 580].



  1. In its most general and comprehensive sense, law signifies a rule of action; and this term is applied indiscriminately to all kinds of action; whether animate or inanimate, rational or irrational [1 Bl. Com. 38]. In its more confined sense, law denotes the rule, not of actions in general, but of human action or conduct. In the civil code of Louisiana, art. 1, it is defined to be “a solemn expression of the legislative will” [Vide Toull. Dr. Civ. Fr. Tit. Pre. s. 1, n. 4; 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 1 – 3].

  2. Law is generally divided into four principal classes, namely; Natural law, the law of nations, public law, and private or civil law. When considered in relation to its origin, it is statute law or common law. When examined as to its different systems it is divided into civil law, common law, or canon law. When applied to objects, it is civil, criminal, or penal. It is also divided into natural law and positive law. Into written law, lex scripta; and unwritten law, lex non scripta. Into law merchant, martial law, municipal law, and foreign law. When considered as to their duration, laws are immutable and arbitrary or positive; when as their effect, they are prospective and retrospective. These will be separately considered.



  1. That which is laid down, ordained, or established. A rule or method according to which phenomena or actions coexist or follow each other.

  2. A system of principals and rules of human conduct, being the aggregate of those commandments and principals which are either prescribed or recognized by the governing power in an organized jural society as its will in relation to the conduct of members of such society, and which it undertakes to maintain and sanction and to use as the criteria of the actions of such members.

  • “Law” is a solemn expression of legislative will. It orders and permits and forbids. It announces rewards and punishments. Its provisions generally relate not to solitary or singular cases, but to what passes in the ordinary course of affairs [Civ. Code La. arts. 1, 2]

  • “Law,” without an article, properly implies a science or system of principals or rules of human conduct, answering to the Latin “jus;” as when it is spoken of as a subject of study or practice. In this sense, it includes the decisions of courts of justice, as well as acts of the legislature. The judgement of a competent court, until reversed or otherwise superseded, is law, as much as any statute. Indeed, it may happen that a statute may be passed in violation of law, that is, of the fundamental law or constitution of a state; that it is the prerogative of courts in such cases to declare it void, or, in other words, to declare it not to be law [Burnill].

  1. A rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power in a state [1 Steph. Comm. 25; Civ. Code Dak § 2; Pol. Code Cal. § 4466].

  • A “law,” in the proper sense of the term, is a general rule of human action, taking cognizance only of external acts, enforced by a determinate authority, which authority is human, and among human authorities is that which is paramount in a political society [Holl. Jur. 36].

  • A “law,” properly so called, is a command which obliges a person or persons; and, as distinguished from a particular or occasional command, obliges generally to acts or forbearances of a class [Aust. Jur.].

  • A rule or enactment promulgated by the legislative authority of a state; a long-established local custom which has the force of such an enactment [Dubois v. Hepburn, 10 Pet. 18, 9 L Ed. 325].

  1. In another sense the word signifies an enactment; a distinct and complete act of positive law; a statute, as opposed to rules of civil conduct deduced from the customs of the people or judicial precedents [for other definitions and descriptions, see State v. McCann, 4 Lea (Tenn.) 9; State v. Hockett, 70 Iowa, 454, 30 N. W. 744; Duncan v. Magette, 25 Tex. 253; Baldwin v. Philadelphia, 99 Pa. 170; State v. Fry, 4 Mo. 189; Forepaugh v. Railroad Co., 128 Pa. 217, 18 Atl. 503, 5 L. R. A. 508, 15 Am. St. Rep. 672; State v. Swan, 1 N. D. 5, 22 N. W. 492; Smith v. U. S., 22 Fed Cas. 696; Swift v. Tyson, 16 Pet. 1, 10 L. Ed. 865; Miller v. Dunn. 72 Cal. 462, 14 Pac. 27, 1 Am. St. Rep. 67; Bier v. McGehee, 148 U. S. 137, 13 Sup. Ct. 580, 37 L. Ed. 397].

  • When the term “law” is used to denote enactments of the legislative power, it is frequently confined, especially by English writers, to permanent rules of civil conduct, as distinguished from other acts, such as a divorce act, an appropriations bill, an estates act [Rep. Eng. St. L. Com. Mar. 1856].

  • Historically considered: with reference to its origin, “law” is derived either from judicial precedents, from legislation, or from custom. That part of the law which is derived from judicial precedents is called “common law,” “equity,” or “admiralty,” “probate,” or “ecclesiastical law,” according to the nature of the courts by which it was originally enforced (see the respective titles). That part of the law which is derived from legislation is called the “statute law.” Many statutes are classed under one of the divisions above mentioned because they have merely modified or extended portions of it, while others have created altogether new rules. That part of the law called the “customary law,” as to which, see CUSTOM [Sweet].

    • The earliest notion of law was not an enumeration of a principle, but a judgment in a particular case. When pronounced in the early ages, by a king, it was assumed to be the result of direct divine inspiration. Afterwards came the notion of a custom which a judgment affirms, or punishes its breach. In the outset, however, the only authoritative statement of right and wrong in a judicial sentence rendered after the fact has occurred. It does not presuppose a law to have been violated, but is enacted for the first time by a higher form into the judge’s mind at the moment of adjudication [Maine, Anc. Law, (Dwight’s Ed.) pp. xv, 5].

  • Synonyms and distinctions: according to the usage in the United States, the name “constitution” is commonly given to the organic or fundamental law of a state, and the term “law is used in contradistinction to the former, to denote a statute or enactment of a legislative body.

“Law,” as distinguished form “equity,” denotes the doctrine and procedure of the common law of England and America, from which equity is a departure.

The term is also used in opposition to “fact.” Thus questions of law are to be decided by the court, while it is the province of the jury to solve questions of fact.

  • Classification: with reference to its subject-matter, law is either public or private. Public law is that part of the law which deals with the state, either by itself or in relations with individuals and is divided into (1) constitutional law; (2) administrative law; (3) criminal law; (4) criminal procedure; (5) the law of the state considered in its quasi private personality; (6) the procedure relating to the state as so considered [Holl. Jur. 300].

Law is also divided into substantive and adjective. Substantive law is that part of the law which creates rights and obligations, while adjective law provides a method of enforcing and protecting them. In other words, adjective law is the law of procedure [Holl. Jur. 61, 238].

The ordinary, but not very useful, division of law into written and unwritten rests on the same principal. The written law is the statute law; the unwritten law is the common law [(q.v.) 1 Steph. Comm. 40, following Blackstone].

  • Kinds of statutes: statutes are called “general” or “public” when they affect the community at large; and local or special when their operation is confined to a limited region, or particular class or interest.

Statutes are also either prospective or retrospective; the former, when they are intended to operate upon future cases only; the latter, when they may also embrace transactions occurring before their passage.

Statutes are called “enabling” when they confer new powers; “remedial” when their effect is to provide relief or reform abuses; “penal” when they impose punishment, pecuniary or corporal, for a violation of their provisions.

  1. In old English jurisprudence, “law” is used to signify an oath, or the privilege of being sworn; as in the phrases “to wage one’s law,” “to lose one’s law.”

  • Absolute law: the true and proper law of nature, immutable in the abstract or in principle, in theory, but not in application; for very often the object, the reason, situation, and other circumstances, may vary tis exercise and obligation [1 Steph. Comm. 21 et seq.].

  • Foreign laws: the laws of a foreign country, or of a sister state [People v. Martin, 38 Misc. Rep. 67, 76 N. Y. Supp. 953; Bank of Chillicothe v. Dodge, 8 Barb. (N. Y.) 233]. Foreign laws the suggesting occasions of changes in, or additions to, our own laws, and in that respect are called “jus reception” [Brown].

  • General law: a general law is contradistinguished from one that is special or local, is a law that embraces a class of subjects or places, and does not omit any subject or place naturally belonging to such class [Van Riper v. Parsons, 40 N. J. Law. 1; Mathis v. Jones. 84 Ga. 804, 11 S. E. 1018; Brooks v. Hyde, 37 Cal. 376; Arms v. Ayer, 192 Ill. 601, 61 N. E. 851, 58 L. R. A. 277, 85 Am. St. Rep. 357; State v. Davis, 55 Ohio St. 15, 44 N. E. 511]. A law, framed in general terms, restricted to no locality, and operating equally upon all of a group of objects, which, having regard to the purposes of the legislation, are distinguished by characteristics sufficiently marked and important to make them a class by themselves, is not a special or local law, but a general law [Van Riper v. Parsons, 40 N. J. Law, 123, 29 Am. Rep. 210]. A special law is one relating to particular persons or things; one made for individual cases or for particular persons or things; one made for individual cases or for particular places or districts; one operating upon a selected class, rather than upon the public generally [Ewing v. Hoblitzelle, 85 Mo. 78; State v. Irwin, 5 Nev. 120; Sargent v. Union School Dist., 63 N. H. 528, 2 Atl. 641; Earle v. Board of Education, 55 Cal. 489; Dundee Mortgage, etc., Co. v. School Dist. (C. C.) 21 Fed. 158].

  • Law agents: solicitors practicing in the Scotch courts.

  • Law arbitrary: opposed to immutable, a law not founded in the nature of things, but imposed by the mere will of the legislature.

  • Law burrows: in Scotch law, security for the peaceable behavior of a party; security to keep the peace. Properly, a process for obtaining such security [1 Forb. Inst. pt. 2, p.198]

  • Law charges: this phrase is used, under the Louisiana Civil Code, to signify costs incurred in court in the prosecution of a suit, to be paid by the party cast [Rousseau v. His Creditors. 17 La. 206; Barkley v. His Creditors, 11 Rob. (La.) 28].

  • Law court of appeals: in American law, an appellate tribunal, formerly existing in the state of South Carolina, for hearing appeals from the courts of law.

  • Law day: see DAY

  • Law French: the Norman French language, introduced into England by William the Conqueror, and which, for several centuries, was, in an emphatic sense, the language of the English law, being that in which the proceedings of the courts and of parliament were carried on, and in which many of the ancient statutes, reports, abridgments, and treatises were written and printed. It is called by Blackstone a “barbarous dialect,” and the later specimens of it fully warrant the appellation, but at the time of its introduction it was, as has been observed, the best form of the language spoken in Normandy [Burrill].

  • Law Latin: the corrupt form of the Latin language employed in the old English law-books and legal proceedings. It contained many barbarous words and combinations.

  • Law list: an annual English publication of a quasi official character, comprising various statistics of interest on connection with the legal profession. It includes (among other information) the following matters; a list of judges, queen’s counsel, and serjeants at law; the judges of the county courts; benchers of the inns of court; barristers, in alphabetical order; the names of counsel practicing in the several circuits of England and Wales; London attorneys; country attorneys; officers of the courts of chancery and common law; the magistrates and law officers of the city of London; the metropolitan magistrates and police; recorders; county court officers and circuits; lord lieutenants and sheriffs; colonial judges and officers; public notaries [Mozley & Whitley].

  • Law lords: peers in the British parliament who have held high judicial office, or have been distinguished in the legal profession [Mozley & Whitley].

  • Law martial: see MARTIAL LAW

  • Law merchant: see MERCANTILE LAW

  • Law of nations: see INTERNATIONAL LAW

  • Law of nature: see NATURAL LAW

  • Law of arms: that law which gives precepts and rules concerning war; how to make and observe leagues and truce, to punish offenders in the camp, and such like [Cowell, Blount]. Now more commonly called the “law of war.”

  • Law of citations: in Roman law, an act of Valentinian, passed A.D. 426, providing that the writings of only five jurists, viz. Papinian, Paul, Gaius, Ulpian, and Modestinus, should be quoted as authorities. The majority was binding on the judge. If the were equally divided the opinion of Papinian was to prevail; and in such a case, if Papinina was silent upon the matter, then the judge was free to follow his own view of the matter [Brown].

  • Law of evidence: the aggregate of rules and principals regulating the admissibility, relevancy, and weight and sufficiency of evidence in legal proceedings [see Ballinger’s Ann Codes & St. Or. 1901 § 678].

  • Law of marque: a sort of law of reprisal, which entitles him who has received any wrong from another and cannot get ordinary justice to take the shipping or goods of the wrong-doer, where he can find them within his own bounds or precincts, in satisfaction of the wrong [Cowell; Brown].

  • Laws of Oleron: see OLERON, LAWS OF

  • Law of the case: a ruling or decision once made in a particular case by an appellate court, while it may be overruled in other cases, is binding and conclusive both on the inferior court in any further steps or proceedings in the sam litigation and upon the appellate court itself in any subsequent appeal or other proceeding for review. A ruling or decision so made is said to be “the law of the case” [see Hastings v. Foxworthy, 45 Neb. 676, 63 N. W. 955, 34 L. R. A. 321; Standard Sewing Mach. Co. v. Leslie, 118 Fed. 559, 55 C. C. A. 323; McKinney v. State, 117 Ind. 26, 19 N. E. 613; Wilson v. Binford, 81 Ind. 591].

  • Law of the flag: in maritime law, the law of that nation or country whose flag is flown by a particular vessel. A ship-owner who sends his vessel into a foreign port gives notice by his flag to all who enter into contracts with the master that he intends the law of that flag to regulate such contracts, and that they must either submit to its operation or not contract with him [Ruhstrat v. People, 185 Ill. 133, 57 N. E. 41, 49 L. R. A. 181, 76 Am. St. Rep. 30].

  • Law of the land: due process of law (q.v.); by the law of the land is most clearly intended the general law which hears before it condemns, which proceeds upon inquiry, and renders judgment only after trial. The meaning is that every citizen shall hold his life, liberty, property, and immunities under the protection of general rules which govern society. Everything which may pass under the form of an enactment is not the law of the land [Sedg. St. & Const. Law. (2d Ed.) 475]. When first used in Magna Carta, the phrase “the law of the land” probably meant the established law of the kingdom, in opposition to the civil or Roman law, which was about being introduced. It is now generally regarded as meaning general public laws binding on all members of the community, in contradistinction from partial or private laws [Janes v. Reynolds, 2 Tex. 251; State v. Burnett, 6 Heisk. (Tenn.) 186]. It means due process of law warranted by the constitution, by the common law adopted by the constitution, or by statutes passed in pursuance of the constitution [Mayo v. Wilson, 1 N. H. 53].

  • Law of the road: a general custom in America (made obligatory by statute in some states) for pedestrians and vehicles, when meeting in a street or road, to turn to the right in order to avoid danger of collision [see Riepe v. Elting, 89 Iowa, 82, 56 N.W. 285, 26 L.R.A. 769, 48 Am. St. Rep. 356; Wright v. Fleischuman, 41 Misc. Rep. 533, 85 N. Y. Supp. 62; Decatur v. Stoops, 21 Ind. App. 397, 52 N. E. 623].

  • Law of the staple: law administered in the court of the mayor of the staple; the law-merchant [4 Inst. 235; see STAPLE].

  • Laws of war: this term denotes a branch of public international law, and comprises the body of rules and principals observed by civilized nations for the regulation of matters inherent in, or incidental to, the conduct of a public war; such, for example, as the relations of neutrals and belligerents, blockades, captures, prizes, truces and armistices, capitulations, prisoners, and declarations of war and peace.

  • Laws of Wisby: see WISBY, LAWS OF

  • Law reports: published volumes containing the reports of cases argued and adjudged in the courts of law.

  • Law spiritual: the ecclesiastical law, or law Christian [Co. Litt. 344].

  • Law worthy: being entitled to, or having the benefit and protection of, the law.

  • Local law: a law which instead of relating to and binding all persons, corporations, or institutions to which it may be applicable, within the whole territorial jurisdiction of the law-making power, is limited in its operation to certain districts of such territory or to certain individual persons or corporations [see GENERAL LAW].

  • Personal law: as opposed to territorial law, is the law applicable to persons not subject to the law of the territory in which they reside. It is only by permission of the territorial law that personal law can exist at the present day; e.g. it applies to British subjects resident in the Levant and in other Mohammedan and barbarous countries. Under the Roman Empire, it had a very wide application [Brown].


Law always construeth things to the best [Wing. Max. p. 720, max. 193].

Law construeth ever act to be lawful, when it standeth indifferent whether it should be lawful or not [Wing. Max. p. 722, max. 194; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, n. 76].

Law construth things according to common possibility or intendment [Wing. Max. p. 705, max. 189].

Law [the law] construeth things with equity and moderation [Wing. Max. p. 685, max. 183; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, n. 74].

Law disfavoreth impossibilities [Wing. Max. p. 606, max. 155].

Law disfavoreth improbabilities [Wing. Max. p. 620, max. 161].

Law [the law] favoreth charity [Wing. Max. p. 497, max. 135].

Law favoreth common right [Wing. Max. p. 547, max. 144].

Law favoreth diligence, and therefore hateth folly and negligence [Wing. Max. p. 665, max. 172; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 70].

Law favoreth honor and order [Wing. Max. p. 739, max. 199].

Law favoreth justice and right [Wing. Max. p. 502, max. 141].

Law favoreth life, liberty, and dower [4 Bacon’s Works, 345].

Law favoreth mutual recompense [Wing. Max. p. 411, max. 108; Finch, Law, v. 1, c. 3, no. 42].

Law [the law] favoreth possesson, where the right is equal [Wing. Max. p. 375, max. 98; Finch, Law, v. 1, c. 3, no. 36].

Law favoreth public commerce [Wing. Max. p. 738, max. 198].

Law favoreth public quiet [Wing. Max. p. 742, max. 200; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 54].

Law favoreth speeding of men’s causes [Wing. Max. p. 673, max. 175].

Law [the law] favoreth things for the commonwealth [common weal] [Wing. Max. p. 729, max. 197; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 53].

Law favoreth truth, faith, and certainty [Wing. Max. p. 604, max. 154].

Law hateth delays [Wing. Max. p. 674, max. 176; Finch. Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 71].

Law hateth new inventions and innovations [Wing. Max. p. 756, max. 204].

Law hateth wrong [Wing. Max. p. 563, max. 146; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 62].

Law of itself prejudiceth no man [Wing. Max. p. 575, max. 148; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 63].

Law respecteth matter of substance more than matter of circumstance [Wing. Max. p. 382, max. 101; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 39].

Law respecteth possibility of things [Wing. Max. p. 403, max. 104; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 40].

Law [the law] respecteth the bonds of nature [Wing. Max. p. 268, max. 78; Finch, Law, b. 1, c. 3, no. 29].



LAW, n. [L.lex, from the root of lay (see LAY). A law is that which is laid, set or fixed, like statute, constitution, from L. statuo].

  1. A rule, particularly an established or permanent rule, prescribed by the supreme power of a state to its subjects, for regulating their actions, particularly their social actions. Laws are imperative or mandatory, commanding what should be done; prohibitory, restraining from what is to be forborn; or permissive, declaring what may be done without incurring a penalty. The laws which enjoin the duties of piety and morality, are prescribed by God and found in the Scriptures.

  • Law is beneficence acting by rule.

  1. Municipal law, is a rule of civil conduct prescribed by the supreme power of a state, commanding what its subjects are to do, and prohibiting what they are to forbear; a statute.

  • Municipal or civil laws are established by the decrees, edicts or ordinances of absolute princes, as emperors and kings, or by formal acts of the legislatures of free states. Law therefore is sometimes equivalent to decree, edict, or ordinance.

  1. Law of nature, is a rule of conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any positive precept. Thus it is a law of nature, that one man should not injure another, and murder and fraud would be crimes, independent of any prohibition from a supreme power.

  2. Laws of animal nature, the inherent principals by which the economy and functions of animal bodies are performed, such as respiration, the circulation of the blood, digestion, nutrition, various secretions, &c.

  3. Laws of vegetation, the principals by which plats are produced, and their growth carried on till they arrive to perfection.

  4. Physical laws, or laws of nature. The invariable tendency or determination of any species of matter to a particular form with definite properties, and the determination of a body to certain motions, changes, and relations, which uniformly take place in the same circumstances, is called a physical law. These tendencies or determinations, whether called laws or affections of matter, have been established by the Creator, and are, with a peculiar felicity of expression, denominated in Scripture, ordinances of heaven.

  5. Laws of nations, the rules that regulate the mutual intercourse of nations or states. These rules depend on natural law, or the principals of justice which spring from the social state; or they are founded on customs, compacts, treaties, leagues and agreements between independent communities.

  • By the law of nations, we are to understand that code of public instruction, which defines the rights and prescribes the duties of nations, in their intercourse with each other.

  1. Moral law, a law which prescribes to men their religious and social duties, in other words, their duties to God and to each other. The moral law is summarily contained in the decalogue or ten commandments, written by the finger of God on two tables of stone, and delivered to Moses on mount Sinai.

  2. Ecclesiastical law, a rule of action prescribed for the government of a church; otherwise called canon law.

  3. Written law, a law or rule of action prescribed or enacted by a sovereign, and promulgated and recorded in writing; a written statute, ordinance, edict, or decree.

  4. Unwritten or common law, a rule of action which derives its authority from long usage, or established custom, which has been immemorially received and recognized by judicial tribunals. As this law can be traced to no positive statutes, its rules or principals are to be found only in the records of courts, and in the reports of judicial decisions.

  5. By-law, a law of a city, town, or private corporation [see BY].

  6. Mosaic law, the institutions of Moses, or the code of laws prescribed to the Jews, as distinguished from the gospel.

  7. Ceremonial law, the Mosaic institutions which prescribe the external rites and ceremonies to be observed by the Jews, as distinct from the moral precepts, which are of perpetual obligation.

  8. A rule of direction; a directory; a reason and natural conscience.

  • These, having not the law, as a law to themselves [Rom. 2].

  1. That which governs or has a tendency to rule; that which the power of controlling.

  • But I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members [Romans 7].

  1. The word of God; the doctrines and precepts of God, or his revealed will.

  • But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night [Ps. 1].

  1. The Old Testament.

  • Is it not written in your law, I said, ye are gods? [John 10].

  1. The institutions of Moses, as distinct from the other parts of the Old Testament; as the law and the prophets.

  2. A rule of axiom of science or art; settled principle; as the laws of versification or poetry.

  3. Law martial, or martial law, the rules ordained for the government of an army or military force.

  4. Marine laws, rules for the regulation of navigation, and the commercial intercourse of nations.

  5. Commercial law, law-merchant, the system of rules by which trade and commercial intercourse are regulated between merchants.

  6. Judicial process; prosecution of right in courts of law.

  • Tom Touchy is a fellow famous for taking the law of every body.

  • Hence the phrase, to go to law, to prosecute; to seek redress in a legal tribunal.

  1. Jurisprudence; as in the title, Doctor of Laws.

  2. In general, law is a rule of action prescribed for the government of rational beings or moral agents, to which rule they are bound to yield obedience, in default of which they are exposed to punishment; or law is a settled mode or course of action or operation in irrational beings and in inanimate bodies.

  • Civil law, criminal law [see CIVIL and CRIMINAL].

  • Laws of honor [see HONOR].

  • Law language, the language used in legal writings and forms, particularly the Norman dialect or Old French, which was used in judicial proceedings from the days of William the conqueror to the 36th year of Edward III.

  • Wager of law, a species of trial formerly used in England, in which the defendant gave security that he would, on a certain day, make his law, that is, he would make oath that he owed nothing to the plaintiff, and would produce eleven of his neighbors as compurgators, who should swear that they believed in their consciences that he had sworn the truth.

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