Using Latin in Legal Documents (With Glossaries)

Anyone who has ever translated or taken part, in any capacity, in a legal proceeding can attest to the fact that there is a multitude of phrases and expressions that are pure Latin and yet are used in documents in many languages without translation. They remain unchanged to maintain uniformity throughout the world in various legal contexts, but this practice also reflects the heavy influence that our Roman ancestors had on the initial legal systems used in Europe and the legal systems still in use today.

Some people will argue that there is no need to keep the Latin expressions in most occasions, as they only serve to “make a point” about the author and can easily be replaced with the exact translation in the language of the document; et al. or et seq. are good examples of this, since using “and others” or “and the following”. Yet many Latin expressions, such as mens rea are concepts that go back centuries and are fundamental to the legal practices in place throughout the world. As such they should be learned and mastered by those in the legal field and ant translators who work with legal documents. Here are some glossaries to help you brush up on the most common terminology: