Legal Latin: italics? (or not?)

Latin for Lawyers

In nonlegal as well as legal texts it is customary to italicize foreign words and expressions. But when dealing with legal Latin that’s not always the case. Certain Latin expressions are in such common use that they are considered part of the legal English lexicon. After having checked several legal style guides (Blue Book; Cambridge Law Journal, California Style Manual, among others), I’m sharing below my lists of “don’t italicize” and “do italicize” Latin terms.

Note: There may be no hard fast rules here. Several terms appeared as “do italicize” in some sources and as “don’t italicize” in others. These include: ab initio, in loco parentis, caveat emptor and non compos mentis, etc.

Latin terms NOT italicized

actus reus

addendum

ad hoc

ad hominem

ad infinitum

ad litem

ad valorem

ab initio

a fortiori

alias

alter ego

amici curiae

amicus curiae

anno Domini

antebellum

a priori

apropos

arguendo

assumpsit

bona fide

caveat emptor

certiorari

compos mentis

consortium

corpus

corpus delicti

corpus juris

de facto

de jure

de minimis

de novo

dicta

dictum

duces tecum

ex contractu

ex delicto

ex officio

ex parte

ex post facto

forum non conveniens

habeas corpus

in camera

in extenso

in extremis

in forma pauperis

in futuro

in limine

in loco parentis

in pari delicto

in pari materia

in personam

in propria persona

in pro. Per.

in rem

in situ

inter alia

inter vivos

in toto

ipso facto

lis pendens

mala in se

mala prohibita

malum in se

malum prohibitum

mandamus

mens rea

modus operando

nisi prius

nolle prosequi

nolo contendere

non campos mentis

non obstante veredicto

nunc pro tunc

obiter dictum

onus

pendente lite

per annum

per diem

per stirpes

prima facie

pro bono publico

pro rata

pro tempore

quantum meruit

quid pro quo

quo warranto

ratio decidendi

res judicata

respondeat superior

sine qua non

stare decisis

status quo ante

sua sponte

sui generis

ultra vires

verbatim

viva voce

voir dire

 

Latin terms that should be italicized (there are dozens more)

a posteriori

a vinculo matrimonii

ad damnum

ad diem

animus

causa mortis

conditio sine qua non

coram nobis/vobis

cum testamento annexo

damnum absque injuria

de bene esse

duces tecum

ejusdem generis

ex curia

in curia

in perpetuum

in re

inter se

lex domicilii

lex locus contractus

lex non scripta

locus delicti

locus in quo

mala fide

ne plus ultra

parens patriae

per curiam

post facto

pro hac vice

quo animo

sensu stricto

sub judice

ut infra

ut supra

vide ut supra

 

 

 

One thought on “Legal Latin: italics? (or not?)

  1. It’s amusing that bona fide is not italicized but mala fide is. I understand why (i.e., bona fide is a common expression in everyday English, but mala fide is not) – not to mention the fact that language rules aren’t logical anyway. But it just goes to show how tricky language rules can be!

    Like

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