Must “Legally” Defined

The following definitions for “must” are taken from Ballantine’s Law Dictionary (3rd edition) & and Webster’s Dictionary (1828):




Indicating compulsion. Ordinarily a mandatory word. [50 Am J1st Stat § 28]. In a statute, calling for substantial rather than literal compliance [Herron v. Harbour, 75 Okla 127, 182 P 243, 29 ALR 905 (statute prescribing the form of an acknowledgment)].

A statutory provision may be directory, rather than mandatory, in nature, notwithstanding use of the word “must.” [(ND) 75 NW2d 313, 55 ALR2d 1049]



MUST, v.i.

  1. To be obliged; to be necessitated. It expresses both physical and moral necessity.
  • A man must eat for nourishment, and he must sleep for refreshment.
  • We must submit to the laws or be exposed to punishment.
  • A bill in a legislative body must have three readings before it can pass to be enacted.
  1. It expresses moral fitness or propriety, as necessary or essential to the character or end proposed.
  • “Deacons must be grave,” “a bishop must have a good report of them that are without.” 1 Tim. 3


MUST, n. [L. mustum; Heb. to ferment]

New wine; wine pressed from the grape but not fermented.


MUST, v.t.

To make moldy and sour.


MUST, v.i.

To grow moldy and sour; to contract a fetid smell.

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