Legal English: “legal” meanings of “award”

Common Words with Uncommon Legal Meanings

Everyone with a minimal knowledge of English will recognize “award” as a synonym of “prize” (the Academy Awards; The Best Fifa Football Awards). But there are several legal meanings of “award” that might not be so obvious. In the context of court rulings, a judge may “award damages” to the successful party in a civil suit. But ¡ojo! In Spanish this is expressed from the perspective of the losing party who is condenado al pago de daños y perjuicios (literally, “ordered to pay damages”) to the successful party.

Likewise, a court may “award costs” to the successful party in litigation, which (once again) in Spanish is expressed from the perspective of the losing party who is condenado en costas (“ordered to pay costs”). In that regard, condena en costas is a “costs award” or “award of costs,” but is also often expressed in English as a “costs order” or “order for costs.”

In arbitration, an arbitrator’s decision is not a judgment, but rather an “award” (in Spanish, laudo arbitral). So, “award” in this context must always be translated as laudo.

And, as a final example, in English a contract is “awarded” to the winning bidder. Thus, adjudicar un contrato is “to award a contract” (never “adjudicate,” a false friend explained here).

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