Legal English Terms Ending in “-OR” and “-EE”

Legal English for Spanish Speakers

English terms ending in the suffixes “–OR” and “–EE” are sometimes a source of confusion for Spanish speakers. “-OR” (and sometimes “-ER”) is the active-agent noun suffix (lessor—one who leases property; indorser—one who indorses a negotiable instrument). As Bryan Garner* has noted the “–EE” suffix originally had an inherently passive sense as the “one who is acted upon” (acquitee—one who is acquitted; arrestee—one who is arrested). Another common usage of the “-EE” suffix has a dative sense, acting as the passive agent noun for an indirect object (grantee—one to whom property is granted; indorsee—one to whom a negotiable instrument is indorsed; lessee—one to whom property is leased). But other uses have developed in which words ending in “–EE” do not have a passive sense at all (asylee—one who seeks asylum; escapee—one who escapes).

In Spanish “–OR” words often (but not always) end in “–OR,” “–ANTE,” “–ENTE,” or “-ISTA,” while “–EE” words often end in “-ADO,” “–ARIO” or “–ORIO.” There are no sure-fire rules, and for Spanish-speaking lawyers who use English and translators of legal texts it may be useful to simply memorize the corresponding Spanish “–OR” and “–EE” pairs.

I am sharing below the English pairs that I believe are most commonly used in legal contexts, along with a possible Spanish translation for each. Most are in common usage, some less so. Some are “-OR”/”-EE” pairs; others don’t have both forms.

  •  abortionist—abortista; abortee—abortada
  • adopter—adoptante; adoptee—adoptado
  • appellant—recurrente/apelante; appellee—recurrido/apelado
  • appointee—nombrado; nominado
  • acquitee—absuelto (proceso penal)
  • assignor—cedente; assignee—cesionario
  • attendee—asistente (a una reunion, etc.)
  • breacher—parte incumplidora; breachee—parte cumplidora (breach of contract)
  • briber—cohechador activo/sujeto activo del cohecho; bribee—cohechador pasivo/sujeto pasivo del cohecho
  • designator—persona que designa; designee—designado
  • devisor—testador que lega bienes inmuebles; devisee—legatario de bienes inmuebles
  • donor—donante; donee—donatario
  • electee—elegido
  • employer—empleador; employee—empleado
  • escapee—fugado
  • evacuee—evacuado
  • evictee—desahuciado
  • franchisor—franquiciador; franchisee—franquiciado
  • garnishee—pagador de sueldo o pensión embargados
  • indictee—acusado (by indictment)
  • indorser—endosante; indorsee—indosatario**
  • internee—internado
  • kidnapee—secuestrado
  • legatee—legatario
  • lessor—arrendador; lessee—arrendatario
  • licensor—licenciante; licensee—licenciatario
  • mortgagor—deudor hipotecario; mortgagee—acreedor hipotecario
  • murderer—asesino; murderee—asesinado
  • nominee—nominado
  • obligor—deudor; obligee—acreedor
  • offeror—oferente; offeree—destinatario de la oferta
  • parolee—liberado condicional
  • patentor—autoridad que concede patentes; patentee—titular de la patente
  • payor—pagador; payee—cobrador; beneficiario del pago/de la prestación
  • pledgor—deudor pignorante; pledgee—acreedor pignoraticio
  • promisor—promitente; promisee—promisario
  • subrogor—acreedor originario; subrogee—subrogado
  • transferor—transmitente; transferee—adquirente
  • vendor—vendedor; vendee—comprador
  • vestee—beneficiario de derechos consolidados (vested rights)

*Bryan Garner. “Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage.” Oxford University Press (3rd ed.), 2011, p. 206-307.

**In British English “indorser” and “indorsee” are spelled “endorser” and “endorsee.”

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