Ellipsis in Legal Language

No one can dispute the fact that legal language is a foreign language that future lawyers must begin to master from their first day in law school. With much dedication, translators can also acquire a solid knowledge of legal terminology from law school textbooks, well-selected dictionaries and many other legal sources. But lawyers don’t always go by the book and sometimes use their own telegraphic language, often leaving out half of any given expression. This may make translation nearly impossible for the uninitiated and, in effect, the meanings of certain legal Spanish phrases containing ellipses often elude translators. Spanish lawyers and legal professionals may be quite familiar with such expressions, but they are largely absent from bilingual legal sources.

In blog entries under “Ellipsis in Legal Language” I will offer a sampling of ellipses that I have found to be the most common, together with an explanation of the ellipted parts and suggestions as to how the expressions might be rendered in English. Many would be obvious in certain contexts, but may be difficult to understand if used in isolation. And of course there may be hundreds more: that’s just the way lawyers talk.

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