Enemy “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “enemy” 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):




Another nation with which the country is in a state of war; more broadly defined for the purposes of some statutes, as including the individuals and corporations of a nation with which the country is at war [56 Am J1st War § 83]. Narrowly interpreted, an “enemy” is always the subject of a foreign power, who owes no allegiance to our government or country [United States v. Greathouse (CC Cal) 4 Sawy 457, 466, F Cas No 15254]. Reasonably, a person engaged against the United States in a rebellion or civil war is an “enemy.” [ 56 Am J1st War § 62]. The status of a person as an “enemy” for the purposes of the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act is determined with reference to domicil or residence in the territory of the nation which is a belligerent against the United States rather than according to nationality [56 Am J1st War § 83]. For the purposes of such statutes, an “enemy” may be a partnership, corporation, or other body of individuals [56 Am J1st War § 83].

See alien enemy; public enemy



  1. By this term is understood the whole body of a nation at war with another. It also signifies a citizen or subject of such a nation, as when we say an alien enemy. In a still more extended sense, the word includes any of the subjects or citizens of a state in amity with the United States, who, have commenced, or have made preparations for commencing hostilities against the United States; and also the citizens or subjects of a state in amity with the United States, who are in the service of a state at war with them [Salk. 635; Bac. Ab. Treason, G.]

  2. An enemy cannot, as a general rule, enter into any contract which can be enforced in the courts of law; but the rule is not without exceptions; as, for example, when a state permits expressly its own citizens to trade with the enemy; and perhaps a contract for necessaries, or for money to enable the individual to get home, might be enforced [7 Pet. R. 586].

  3. An alien enemy cannot, in general, sue during the war, a citizen of the United States, either in the courts of, the United States, or those of the several states [1 Kent, Com. 68; 15 John. R. 57 S. C. 16 John. R. 438. Vide marsh. Ins. c. 2, s. 1; Park. Ins. Index. h. t.; Wesk. Ins. 197; Phil. Ins. Index. h.t.; Chit. Comm. Law, Index, h.t.; Chit. Law of Nations, Index. h.t.]

  4. By the term enemy is also understood, a person who is desirous of doing injury to another. The Latins had two terms to signify these two classes of persons; the first, or the public enemy, they called hostis, and the latter, or the private enemy, inimicus.



In public law, signifies either the nation which is at war with another, or a citizen or subject of such nation.

  • Alien enemy: an alien, that is, a citizen or subject of a foreign state or power, residing within a given country, is called an “alien ami” if the country where he lives is at peace with the country of which he is a citizen or subject; but if a state of war exists between the two countries he is called an “alien enemy,” and in that character is denied access to the courts or aid from any of the departments of government.

  • Enemy’s property: in international law, and particularly in the usage of prize courts, this term designates any property which is engaged or used in illegal intercourse with the public enemy, whether belonging to an ally or a citizen, as the illegal traffic stamps it with the hostile character and attaches to it all the penal consequences [The Benito Estenger, 176 U.S. 568, 20 Sup. Ct. 489, 44 L. Ed. 592; The Sally, 8 Cranch, 382, 3 L. Ed. 597; Prize Cases, 2 Black. 674, 17 L. Ed. 459].

  • Public enemy: a nation at war with the United States; also every citizen or subject of such nation. Not including robbers, thieves, private depredators, or riotous mobs [State v. Moore, 74 Mo. 417, 41 Am. Rep. 322; Lewis v. Ludwick, 6 Cold. (Tenn.) 368, 98 Am. Dec. 454; Russell v. Fagan, 7 Houst. (Del.) 389, 8 Atl. 258, 30 S. W. 425, 28 L. R. A. 80, 46 Am. St. Rep. 208].



EN’EMY, n. [L. inimicus]

  1. A foe; an adversary. A private enemy is one who hates another and wishes him injury, or attempts to do him injury to gratify his own malice or ill will. A public enemy or foe, is one who belongs to a nation or party, at war with another.

  • I way to you, love your enemies, Matt. 5

  • Enemies in war; in peace friends.

  1. One who hates or dislikes; as an enemy to truth or falsehood.

  2. In theology, and by way of eminence, the enemy is the Devil; the archfiend.

  3. In military affairs, the opposing army or naval force in war, is called the enemy.

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