Legal Abbreviations, Historical

Legal Abbreviations, Historical information


A shortened form of words obtained by the omission of one or more syllables from the middle or end of the words, according to the Bouvier’s Law Dictionary. As almost every word in the language may be abbreviated, the number may be made very large. The broadest rule which has been applied to their usage in legal forms and proceedings limits them to such as are in common use; and while their meaning in written instruments of almost every kind has been allowed to be explained by the introduction of Verbally (or in writing not under seal) testimony, yet the ambiguity and uncertainty which they occasion render the saving of trouble or expense of doubtful advantage. The difficulty is of course lessened to those that follow, which have had legal constructions placed upon them.

Abbreviations in common use in legal instruments, or those capable of explanation by verbally (or in writing not under seal) evidence or usage, do not, as a general rule, vitiate a writing.

Historically, a lawyer were able to use such abbreviations as are commonly used in the English language, under the statutes of 2 George II. c. 23, and 12 George II. c. 13, s. 5.

There are several good books about legal abbreviations. From an historical perspective, the “Trinxet Reverse Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms “covers and designates many historic American, British, and Canadian reports, together with those of the classic text-books. This dictionary did not contain a complete list of all the text-books, since covering the ephemeral text-books would be of no value, and would only serve to encumber the really useful abbreviations. The dictionary covers the more common abbreviations of legal terminology of reports and text-books, such as the ones which have received judicial construction.

Judicial Notice

Courts will determine the meaning of customary abbreviations of common words, names of places, and Christian names, without used to designate the official character of court officers and other public officials.

In the case of time, Courts take judicial notice of abbreviations ordinarily used to designate
time, such as those for month, forenoon, afternoon, etc.
Verbally Evidence

Verbally (or in writing not under seal) evidence is admissible to explain the meaning of abbreviations in written instruments, and to .show the words for which they stand. Although Verbally (or in writing not under seal) evidence is admissible to show the sense in which the parties were in the habit of using particular abbreviations or characters, and their conventional meaning, it is inadmissible to show the intention of a party in making use of them. It has been said that in order to introduce Verbally (or in writing not under seal) evidence to explain the sense in which characters or letters which have not acquired a legal signification were used in a contract, it is necessary to
aver in the pleading the meaning the party desires to attribute to them.

Regarding usage, Verbally (or in writing not under seal) evidence of usage and custom may be given to explain abbreviations.

Deeds, Tax Proceedings, and Descriptions of Land

In general the principles governing the effect of abbreviations in conveyances, tax assessments,
and descriptions of land generally, do .not differ from those applicable to the use of abbreviations in other instruments. Reference, therefore, should be made to the preceding sections. As, however, there have been a large number of decisions upon the effect of abbreviated descriptions of land, it has been thought more useful to the practitioner to gather them in a separate site (Legal Abbreviations Site).

Well-known abbreviations may be used in conveyances, and are sufficient ; but vague, uncertain, and arbitrary abbreviations are not permissible. In tax proceedings perhaps more strictness is required in description than in an ordinary conveyance.

See Also

Further Reading

  • Prince, Mary Miles. Bieber’s Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations. 6th ed. Buffalo, NY: Hein, 2009.
  • Trinxet, Salvador. Template:Trinxet Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Series. A Law Reference Collection, 2011
  • Trinxet, Salvador. Trinxet Reverse Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms, 2011
  • Raistrick, Donald. Index to Legal Citations and Abbreviations. 3rd ed. London: Sweet & Maxwell, 2008. This book focuses more on British and other foreign/international abbreviations.
  • Kavass, World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations



References and Further Reading

About the Author/s and Reviewer/s

Author: international

Mentioned in these Entries

Common legal abbreviations, Florida: Abbreviations for law journals, French Legal Abbreviations, Historical Dictionary of International Tribunals, Law Classification, Historical, Law Journals Abbreviations and Acronyms, Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms, Legal Abbreviations, Historical 2, Legal Abbreviations, Historical 3, Legal Citation, List of Legal Dictionaries.



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