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Published On: 17th April, 2024

Authored By: Saswati Paul
Advocate, District Bar Association, Silchar


Legal maxims (in a fixed Latin form), have been in use since 17th Century or earlier. Usages of Legal maxims are frequent in International Laws. Legal maxims are used to formulate a legal policy which Judges are supposed to consider while deciding a case. It is often instructive and indicating some specific actions. The term ‘Maxim’ is the Latin derivation of the term ‘Axioma’ which means the first principle. Legal maxims have become a part and parcel of every legal document which has helped to modify the legal language.


A legal maxim is firmly set and well-established legal principles, statutory definitions, legal words, doctrines, rules and theories, ideas and proposals expressed mostly in Latin Language. The problem of interpretation of such foreign words and phrases has always been a mind-boggling exercise for all those who are concerned with law.

Needless to say that Indian Legal System has its origin in the Common Law System of England. As such, a number of English Principles of law have also been incorporated.

A number of Legislatures adopted various Legal maxims while making Legislations throughout the Globe. It is often used by Legal Professionals to avoid using extensive definitions. Most of them are compiled together in Legal Dictionaries as well.

Meaning and usages of Legal maxims serves a vital function for interpreting the legislation. These principles and doctrines aid every judicial system across the Globe in implementing current and amended laws in a reasonable manner and serve as the foundation for sound judgments.


There are many legal maxims which are commonly used. Here an attempt is made for the Compilation of Important and interesting Legal Maxims in an alphabetical order which is as follows:


  1. Ab initio- From the very beginning.
  2. Ab invito- Against one’s will. For instance, taking something from someone else without their consent is referred to as a transfer ab invito.
  3. Actus me invito factus non est mens actus- An act done by one against one’s will is not one’s act.
  4. Act malum in se- An unlawful act itself renders the accused liable for all the natural consequences arising from this act, for e.g. shooting at poultry, intending to steal it but accidentally kills a man, he will be liable to murder.
  5. Actio qualibet it sua via- Every action follows it prescribed course.
  6. Actore incumbit onus probandi- Burden of proof lies on the plaintiff.
  7. Affirmanti non neganti incumbit probatio- The burden of proof lies upon him who affirms, not upon him who denies.
  8. Actori non probante absolvitur reus- When the plaintiff does not prove his case the defendant is absolved.
  9. Actus curiae neminem gravabit- An act of court shall prejudice no one.
  10. Actus legis nemini est demnosus/injurium- An act in law shall prejudice none; the act of the law hurts none.
  11. Actus non facit reum, nisi mens sit rea- Act itself does not constitute unless done with intent of guilt.
  12. Actus reus- Criminal Act.
  13. Ad curiam- At a Court.
  14. Ad hoc- For a particular case at hand.
  15. Ad interim- In the meantime.
  16. Ad tunc et ibidem- At the time and in the same place.
  17. Aedificatum solo, solo credit- What is built upon the land goes with the land.
  18. Aequitas est aequalitus- Equity is equality.
  19. Aequitas non facit jus sed juri auxilatur- Equity does not make law, but assists law.
  20. Aequitas nunquam contravenit legis- Equity never counteracts the law
  21. Aequitus sequitur legem- Equity follows the law.
  22. Aggregatio mentium- the meeting of the minds, when the contract is complete.
  23. Assensio mentium- Meeting of minds during mutual consent.
  24. Alias- The second name of a person who is known by more than one name.
  25. Amicus Curiae- A friend of the Court is a member of the Bar or other stand by, who informs the Court when it is doubtful or mistaken of any fact or decided case. A Counsel provided by the State to an accused who is not represented by a Counsel.
  26. Arguendo- In the course of argument.
  27. Arma in armatos sumere jura sinunt- The law permits us to take up arms against the armed.
  28. Audietur et altera pars- Hear the other side.
  29. Audi alteram partem- No one should be condemned unheard, one of the Principles of Natural Justice.
  30. Augusta legibus soluta non est- Even the queen is not exempted from subjection to the laws of the Country.
  31. Autre fois acquit/convict- Previous acquittal/conviction by a competent court of law is a bar to further prosecution for the same offence.


  1. Bona fide – With good faith.
  2. Bona gestura – Good behavior.
  3. Bona vacantia – Goods without an apparent owner in which no one claims a property, such as lost property or the personal property of an intestate without next of kin.
  4. Boni judicis est causas litium dirimere – It is the duty of a good judge to remove the causes of litigation.
  5. Boni judicis est judicium sine dilatione mandare excutioni – It is the duty of a good judge to cause judgement to be executed without delay.
  6. Bonum vacans – property without an owner of any sort.


  1. Causa mortis – Cause of death.
  2. Causa turpis – illegal consideration.
  3. Caveat – A caveat is a notice to the Register or officer of the court not to let anything be done by anybody in the matter of the will or the goods of the deceased without notice to the person who lodges the caveat.
  4. Caveat emptor – Let the buyer beware.
  5. Caveat viator – Let the traveler beware.
  6. Certiorari – A prerogative writ of superior court to call for the records of an inferior court or body acting in judicial or quasi judicial capacity. The Indian Constitution’s Articles 32 and 226 give the Supreme Court and the High Courts, respectively, the authority to issue writs or directives in the form of prohibition, certiorari, mandamus, quo warranto, and habeas corpus.
  7. Certiorarified mandamus – A merger of the two writs viz. certiorari and mandamus.
  8. Contra jus – Against the law.
  9. Contra legem – Against the law of the land.
  10. Coram non judice – Without jurisdiction.
  11. Corpus – Complete collection of laws.
  12. Corpus delicti – Body, substance or foundation of an offence.
  13. Cujus est commodum ejus est onus – He who has the benefit has also the burden
  14. Cujus est commodum ejus debet esse incommodum – whose is the advantage, his also should be the disadvantage
  15. Culpa lata – Gross negligence.
  16. Culpable – Punishable.


  1. Damni injurie actio – An action against one for an intentional injury.
  2. Damnum sine injuria – damage without injury.
  3. De domo reparanda – A writ to compel a man to repair his house when dangerous to the neighbours.
  4. De facto doctrine – It is a doctrine of necessity and public policy to clear the confusion and settle the chaos in the tangled web of human affairs.
  5. De jure – by law.
  6. De minimis non curat lex – Law does not take account of trifles.
  7. De novo – from beginning.
  8. De placito – in an action.
  9. De tempore in tempus et ad omnia tempora – from time to time and at all times.
  10. Debet esse finis litum – There ought to be an end of law suits.
  11. Debet quis juris subjacere ubi delinquit – Everyone ought to be subject to the law of the place where he offends.
  12. Decipi quam fallere est tutius – It is safer to be deceived than to deceive.
  13. Dictum – A statement of law made by a Judge in the course of the decision of a case.
  14. Dies a quo – The day from which.
  15. Dies a quom – The day to which.
  16. Dies juridicus – A court day or a day for judicial proceedings.
  17. Dieu son acte – Act of God.
  18. Doli incapax – incapable of commiting crime.
  19. Dolus auctoris non nocent successori – The fraud of a predecessor does not prejudice his successor.
  20. Donation vilata – A hidden gift.
  21. Dormiunt aliquando leges, nunquam moriuntur – Laws sometimes sleep but never die.
  22. Droit ne done pluis que soit demaunde – Justice gives no more than is demanded.
  23. Doti lex favet, praemium pudoris est, ideo parcatur – The law favors dower, it is the reward of chastity, therefore let it be preserved


  1. Error qui non resistitur , approbatur – An error which is not resisted is approved.
  2. Erubescit lex filios castigare parentes – The law blushes when children correct their parents.
  3. Ex adverso – On the other side.
  4. Ex facto jus oritur – The law depends in the fact.
  5. Exceptio nulla est versus actionem quae exceptionem perimit – There is no plea against an action which destroys the subject or matter of the plea.
  6. Exceptio quae firmat legem exponit legem – An exception which confirms a law expounds the law.
  7. Experiential docet – Experience teaches.
  8. Extra judicium – Out of the court.
  9. Extra jus – Beyond the law.
  10. Ex testamento – By will.


  1. Facilis est lapsus juventutis – Youth is very liable to err.
  2. Facta sunt potentiora verbis – Facts are more powerful than words.
  3. Factum infectum fieri aequit – What is done cannot be undone.
  4. Factum probandum – Principal fact to be proved.
  5. Factum unuis alteri noceri non debet – The deed of one should not hurt another.
  6. Fatetur facinus qui judicium fugit – He who flees from judgment confesses his guilt.
  7. Fiat – a decree.
  8. Fiat justitia – Let justice be done.
  9. Forum actus – Forum where the act was done.
  10. Forum contentiosum – Place of litigation.
  11. Fraus et just nunquam cohabitant – Fraud and justice never dwell together.
  12. Frustra probatur quod probatum non relevant – It is vain to prove that which if proved would not aid the matter in issue.


  1. Generalis regula generaliter est intelligenda – General rules must be generally understood.
  2. Grammatica falsa non vitiat chartum – Bad grammer does not vitiate a deed.


  1. Haereditas ab intestato – Succession from an intestate.
  2. Haeres de facto – An heir from the deed or act of the ancestor.
  3. Haeres ex asse – A sole heir.
  4. Haeres factus – An heir appointed by will.
  5. Haereditus nunquam ascendit – Inheritance never ascends.


  1. Id est – That is, abbreviated as i.e.
  2. Ibidem, ibid, id – In the same place, volume or case.
  3. Idem ad – “Of the same mind” i.e. is agreed. That is necessary element of a valid contract.
  4. Ideo – Therefore.
  5. Ideo consideratum est – Used in the body of judgment, means, ‘therefore it is considered’.
  6. Ides – 15th day of March, May, July, and October, and 13th day of other months.
  7. Ignorantia facit excusat , ignorantia juris (legis) non excusat – Ignorance of fact may excuse but not ignorance of law.
  8. Ignorantia juris sui non praejudicat juri – Ignorance of one’s right does not prejudice the right.
  9. Ignorantia praesumitar ubi scientia non probatur – Ignorance is presumed where knowledge is not proved.
  10. In articulo mortis – Statement made by a man in articulo mortis, called a dying declaration, can be given in evidence after his death on the trial of any one accused of his murder or manslaughter.
  11. In atrocioribus delictis punitur affectus licet non sequatur effectus – In more atrocious crimes, the intent is punished though the effect does not follow.
  12. In autre droit – In another’s right, a representative capacity, an executor who sues for a debt due to his testator is said to sue in autre droit.
  13. In cujus rei testimonium – In witness whereof.
  14. In curia – In the open court.
  15. In custodia legis – In legal custody.
  16. In delicto – in default.
  17. In diem – For a day.
  18. In exitu – In issue.
  19. In facto – infact, indeed.
  20. In favorem vitae, libertatis, et innocentiae omnia praesumuntur – In favor of life, liberty and innocence all things are to be presumed.
  21. In gremoi legis – under the protection of law.
  22. In initio – In the beginning.
  23. In exercise – when anything is done under a power.
  24. In judicio – In court.
  25. In litem – during the litigation.
  26. In loco – In the place.
  27. In maxima potentia minima licentia – In the greatest power there is the least liberty.
  28. In memorium – In memory of.
  29. In mora – In default.
  30. In Pais – Out of the Court.
  31. In person – Personally.
  32. In personam – Against a particular person.
  33. In posterum – in future.
  34. In praesenti – At present.
  35. In primis – in the first place.
  36. In status quo – In the same state.
  37. In toto – Totally.
  38. Incognito – Unknown, person whose name and identity is concealed.
  39. Initialia testimonii – Preliminary examination of a witness.
  40. Injuria – Tortious Act.
  41. Injuria non excusat injuriam – A wrong does not excuse a wrong.
  42. Injuria servi dominum pertinit – The master is liable for injury done by his servants.
  43. Injuria sine damno – Injury without damage.
  44. Inter alia – Among other things.
  45. Inter vivos – Between living persons
  46. Interim – Meanwhile, in the meantime.
  47. Intra vires – Within the powers or authority.
  48. Ipse dixit – He said it himself, no other authority is needed.
  49. Ipso facto – By the fact itself.
  50. Ipso jure – by the law itself.


  1. Judex ad quem – A judge to whom an appeal is made.
  2. Judicandum est legibus, non exemplis – Judgment is to be given according to the laws, not according to examples.
  3. Judicis posterioribus fides est abhibenda – Credit is to be given to the later decisions.
  4. Judicium capitale – Capital judgment.
  5. Jure naturae – According to the law of nature.
  6. Jus civitatis – Right of citizenship.
  7. Jus in re aliena – A right of a person in the property of others. It consists 1) Lease 2) Servitude 3) Security and 4) Trust.
  8. Jus legitimum – Legal right.
  9. Justitia nec differenda nec neganda est – Justice is not be denied or delayed.
  10. Justitia prepondrous – Speedy justice.


  1. Lex fori – Law of the forum of court.
  2. Lex loci – Law of the place.
  3. Lex loci delicti delictus – Law of the place where the crime took place.
  4. Lex vigilantibus, non dormientibus, subvenit – Law assists the wakeful, not the sleeping.
  5. Lis pendens/pendente lite – During the pendency of suit.


  1. Magis jus nostrum quam jus alienum servemus – We should follow our own rather than a foreign law.
  2. Mala fide – Bad faith.
  3. Mens rea – A guilty mind.
  4. Minatur innocentibus qui parcit nocentibus – He threatens the innocent who spares the guilty.
  5. Modus operandi – Manner of operating.
  6. Modus vivendi – Manner of living.
  7. Monumenta quae nos recorda vocamus sunt veritatis et vetustatis vestigia – Monuments which we call records are the vestiges of truth and antiquity.


  1. Ne exeat – A writ prohibiting a person from leaving the place.
  2. Ne quaere litem cum licet figere – Seek not a lawsuit when you can escape it.
  3. Necessitus est lex temporis et loci – Necessity is the law of time and place.
  4. Neminem laedit qui jure suo utitur – He who stands on his own rights, injures no one.
  5. Nemo bis punitur vexatur pro eodem/nemo debet bis puniri pro uno delicto – No man is punished twice for the same offence.
  6. Nemo judex in causa sua – No man shall be a judge of his own cause.
  7. Nomen juris – Name of the law.
  8. Non est – Never existing.


  1. Onus propundi – Burden of proof.
  2. Obiter dictum – An incidental opinion by a Judge which is not binding.
  3. Omne nimium vertitur in vitium – Every excess becomes a vice.
  4. Optima statuti interpretatrix est ipsum statutum – The best interpreter of statute is the statute itself.


  1. Plures candem rem in solidum possidere non possunt – Two persons cannot be in possession of the same thing at the same time.
  2. Plus valet unus oculatus testis quam auriti decem – On eyewitness is more than ten hearsay witnesses.
  3. Pro bono publico – For the benefit of the public.
  4. Per idiem – By the day.
  5. Per se – By itself.
  6. Per causa – With equal right.


  1. Quasi judicial – Judicial in some sense, but not in every sense.
  2. Quo warranto- A writ issued to restrain a person from acting in a public office to which he/she is not entitled.


  1. Ratio decidendi – The principle or reasons underlying a decision.
  2. Res ipsa loquitor – Thing speaks for itself.
  3. Res sub judice – Matters pending in court.


  1. Secundum subjectam materiam – According to the subject matter.
  2. Salus populi est supreme lex – The welfare of the people is the supreme law.


  1. Testis – Witness.
  2. Testis corruptus – Corrupt witness.
  3. Testamentum – A will.
  4. Testimonium – A concluding part of a deed which generally begins with words, “In witness”.


  1. Ui jus ibi idem remediem – Where there is a right, there is a remedy.
  2. Ubi remedium, ubi jus – Where there is a remedy, there is a right.
  3. Ultima voluntas – The last will.
  4. Ultra vires – Beyond the scope, power or authority of any Company, Corporation or Statutory body.


  1. Vadium mortuum – A deed of mortgage.
  2. Vendicatio – A claim.
  3. Veritas est justitiate mater – Truth is the mother of justice.
  4. Vicarious liability – Liability of the master for the acts of the servant or agent done in the course.
  5. Vice versa – The order being reversed.
  6. Vis major – Act of God.
  7. Vis-à-vis – The relationship of one of two persons or things to the other when facing or situated opposite each other.
  8. Volenti non fit injuria – Defence that the plaintiff cannot claim damages for injury. sustained by him on account of his having consented to it.
  9. Voluntas testatoris ambulatoria est esque ad mortem – The will of a Testator is ambulatory (changeable) until his death.
  10. Vulgaris opinion – Common opinion.


Legal maxims, when used in the right context, make the language direct and clear. Usages of maxims like ‘bona fide’ which means ‘in good faith’ is very common in nature. Legal maxims are often used elucidating a legal principle, proposition or concept. Apart from that, legal maxims also help to strengthen one’s legal aptitude. They are often asked in many law entrance examinations such as CLAT (Common Law Aptitude Test) in India and other International examinations as well. Moreover, they are very entertaining in nature that is why usages of such maxims attract the curious minds of modern law students and legal professionals. Legal maxims basically work as guiding principle for legal literature.


  1. https://strictlylegal.in/101-legal-maxims-every-law-students-must-know/#:~:text=Legal%20maxims%20are%20established%20legal,Law%2C%20Civil%20Law%2C%20Corporate.
  2. https://blog.ipleaders.in/incorporation-maxims-indian-laws-importance/
  3. https://www.writinglaw.com/important-legal-maxims-and-phrases/
  4. Collective work of K.Agarwal, Arvind Mishra & K.K.Kulashreshtha, published by Pioneer Printers, Agra.

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