Confusing Terms: a título oneroso; a título gratuito; a título lucrativo

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)
Many confusing terms in legal Spanish and legal English are simply legal synonyms that are not always clearly distinguishable, often making it necessary to learn how each one is used in a specific context or in set phrases (frases hechas). Some may be interchangeable; others are limited to use in specific contexts. Those highlighted in this blog are ones that I have seen confused in translation or that my students and lawyer clients have found most difficult to distinguish.

a título oneroso; a título gratuito; a título lucrativo

These expressions are sometimes confused in translation. Título oneroso is defined in the DLE as el que supone recíprocas prestaciones entre los que adquieren y transmiten, and in that regard a título oneroso has been appropriately translated as “for valuable consideration,” “for (or) against payment” or “subject to obligation.” A título gratuito is easily recognizable as the opposite of a título oneroso and accurately rendered as “free of charge,” “without consideration” or “subject to no obligation.” But the term lucrativo (DLE: que produce utilidad o ganancia) in a título lucrativo has often prompted translators to assume that, like a título oneroso, the expression means “for profit,” “for payment” or “for valuable consideration,” when actually the case is just the opposite. Título lucrativo is el que proviene de un acto de liberalidad, como la donación o el legado, sin conmutación recíproca* and, thus, a título lucrativo and a título gratuito are actually synonyms and may both be rendered as above (“free of charge,” “without valuable consideration” or “subject to no obligation”).

*Santiago Segura Munguía Lexicon (incompleto) etimológico y semántico del Latín y de las voces actuales que proceden de raíces latinas o griegas. Bilbao: Universidad de Deusto, 2014, p. 332.


2 thoughts on “Confusing Terms: a título oneroso; a título gratuito; a título lucrativo

  1. Finally, Rebecca, academic confirmation of something I’ve long suspected was the case! (In fact my lawyer clients confirmed it many years ago, but it’s great to have a solid reference to use. (BTW I see you deal with “false friends” – it was one of my favourite themes when I was teaching English in companies because the misunderstandings they can cause are sometimes funny but potentially serious – just one example, “eventualmente”. I used to say that if you say “in this concrete case” someone might laugh thinking of a suitcase made of concrete. It became a catchphase, “En aquesta maleta de formigó…” – Uhh, I live in Catalonia.) I’m a great admirer of your work, Rebecca, many graces!


    • Hi, Paul. Sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. Thanks for your kind comment. And, indeed, “false friends” are one of the first pitfalls legal translators encounter. Saludos desde Madrid.


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