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).

Mistranslations: Avoid literal renderings of telemático

Is this really a mistranslation_

In English, “telematics is a term that combines the words ‘telecommunications’ and ‘informatics’ to broadly describe the integrated use of communications and information technology to transmit, store and receive information from telecommunications devices to remote objects over a network.” And telématico/a and telemáticamente are often rendered literally in Spanish as “telematic” and “telematically.” But as used currently in Spain, the terms simply refer some type of transaction conducted “online.”

In that regard, official documents such as tax returns, annual accounts and notarial instruments may often be filed online with the competent authorities, and this procedure is referred to as presentar telématicamente (to “file online”) or presentación telemática (“online filing”). In this context pago telématico is simply an “online payment.” Other common examples include presentación telemática de las cuentas anuales en el Registro Mercantil (“online filing of annual accounts at the Companies Registry”); presentar telemáticamente la declaración de la renta (“to file a tax return online”) or presentar la solicitud telemáticamente (“to submit the application online”).

Capsule Vocabularies: Branches of Law in Spanish and English (2)–Private Law


Yesterday we looked at the major branches of Spanish public law (Derecho público) in Spanish and English. To complete this terminology review, below are the main areas of law included in the private law category (Derecho privado), with possible English renderings:

Derecho civil–civil law

Derecho de la persona–law of persons

Derecho de obligaciones–law of obligations

Derecho de los contratos–contract law

Derecho de daños–law of torts; tort law

Derecho de familia–family law; domestic relations

Derecho matrimonial–matrimonial law

Derecho patrimonial–property law

Derecho inmobiliario–land law; law of real property; real estate law

Derecho registral–law of public registers

Derecho hipotecario; Derecho inmobiliario registral–law of land registration

Derecho notarial–notarial law; law of public notaries

Derecho de sucesiones–law of succession; inheritance law

Derecho mercantil–business law

Derecho de la propiedad intelectual; derechos de autor–copyright law; copyright

Derecho de la propiedad industrial (patentes, marcas, etc.)–industrial property law (patents, trademarks, etc.)

Derecho de marcas; Derecho marcario–trademark law

Derecho de patentes–patent law

Derecho societario; Derecho de sociedades–law of business organizations; corporate law; company law

Derecho bancario–banking law

Derecho del mercado de valores; Derecho bursátil–securities markets law

Derecho cambiario–law of negotiable instruments

Derecho de la competencia–competition law (EU); antitrust law (US)

Derecho de la competencia desleal–unfair competition law

Derecho de la publicidad–advertising law

Derecho contable–accounting law

Derecho concursal–insolvency law

Derechos de los seguros privados–insurance law

Derecho de la navegación–shipping law; maritime and aviation law

Derecho marítimo–maritime law; admiralty law

Derecho aeronáutico; Derecho aéreo–aviation law

Source: Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés



Capsule Vocabularies: Branches of Law in Spanish and English (1)–Public Law


Spanish law is generally divided into two major branches (ramas de Derecho): Derecho público (public law) and Derecho privado (private law). Below are the principal disciplines included in Derecho público with possible English translations:

Derecho constitucional–constitutional law

Derecho eclesiástico del Estado–law of church-state relations

Derechos fundamentales–fundamental rights

Derecho económico; Derecho de la economía–economic law

Derecho administrativo–administrative law

Derecho parlamentario–parliamentary law

Derecho electoral–election law; electoral law

Derecho urbanístico–zoning law; urban planning

Derecho ambiental/medioambiental–environmental law

Derecho de los consumidores–consumer protection law

Derecho de aguas–water law

Derecho minero–mining law

Derecho de extranjería–immigration law

Derecho procesal–procedural law

Derecho procesal civil–civil procedure

Derecho procesal penal–criminal procedure

Derecho procesal laboral; Derecho procesal del trabajo–labor procedure

Derecho procesal contencioso administrativo–administrative procedure

Derecho penal–criminal law; penal law

Derecho penal del menor–juvenile justice

Derecho penitenciario–corrections law; prison law

Derecho del trabajo; Derecho laboral–labor law

Derecho individual del trabajo–employment law

Derecho de la Seguridad Social–social security law

Derecho financiero–finance law

Hacienda pública–public finance

Derecho presupuestario–budgetary law

Derecho tributario–tax law

(Tomorrow: Branches of Law in Spanish and English (2)–Private Law)

Source: Léxico temático de terminología jurídica español-inglés

Español jurídico: What is a magistrado-juez?

Legal Spanish for Translators

In a previous post we looked at the term magistrado and saw why it cannot be translated as “magistrate.” But what about magistrado-juez? (A “judge-judge”?) For those unfamiliar with the Spanish judiciary, the term is certainly confusing. Having recently discussed this in class with my students, I thought it might be worth taking a look at it here in the blog.

The distinction between the two categories of Spanish judge (juez and magistrado) is quite clear: jueces sit on single-judge (usually) trial courts (juzgados; órganos unipersonales), while magistrados sit in panels on multi-judge (often) appellate courts (tribunales; órganos colegiados). Both can be rendered as “judge,” and the omnipresent expression jueces y magistrados is merely a reference to “judges” collectively or to the Spanish judiciary as a whole.

A magistrado-juez is a judge who has obtained the category of magistrado, but who sits on a single-judge court. A typical example are the magistrados-juez who sit on juzgados de instrucción, investigating and preparing the subsequent trials of major felonies (delitos graves).

Thus, if a definition is required, a magistrado-juez is a (senior) judge (magistrado) who sits on a single-judge court (juzgado; órgano unipersonal). But, once again, this distinction is not likely to be required in translation, and the term can usually be rendered simply as “judge.”

And, obviously magistrado-juez and “magistrate judge” are (big fat) false friends! As noted in the previous entry linked above, magistrado is a higher category of Spanish judge, while in England and Wales “magistrates” (also known as “justices of the peace”) are generally lay judges with no formal legal training. Likewise, in the United States federal system, there are “magistrate judges” who oversee civil and criminal pretrial matters and may conduct civil or criminal trials of misdemeanors (faltas; delitos leves), quite the opposite of the serious felonies investigated by Spanish magistrados-juez.

False Friends in ES-EN Legal Translation: is elevar really “elevate”??

False Friends Fridays new

In legal usage elevar has several different meanings, none of which is the literal “to elevate.” The most common translation of elevar in legal (and other) contexts is simply “to raise” (being synonymous with subir): El Ministerio del Interior está estudiando elevar la edad para conducir ciclomotores (“The Interior Ministry is studying the possibility of raising the age for driving motorbikes.”); El BCE confirma que volverá a elevar los tipos… (“The ECB confirms that it will once again raise interest rates…”).

Elevar has the additional meaning of “to submit a petition or proposal” (elevar una petición o propuesta). Thus, for example, elevación de las cuentas anuales para su aprobación por la Junta General de Accionistas refers to “submitting the annual accounts for approval at the annual shareholders meeting.”

In other respects, in Spanish felony proceedings (procedimiento penal ordinario) elevar a definitivas has a peculiar meaning, referring to the ratification of the prosecution’s initial accusation and the defense’s initial defense (collectively called calificaciones provisionales). At the end of a criminal trial and after evidence has been examined, the attorneys for the prosecution and defense may then amend their initial pleadings in written closing arguments called conclusiones based on the events that transpired at trial, or they may “ratify their initial accusatory and defensive pleadings” (elevar a definitivas las calificaciones de fiscal y defensa), which are then known as calificaciones definitivas.

 Special mention should perhaps also be made of the omnipresent expression elevar a público that is sometimes mistranslated simply as “to make public” (which would be more appropriately rendered as publicar or hacer público). Elevar a público is indeed much more than merely publicizing an act or event, being an ellipsis for elevar a público un documento privado (meaning “to notarize,” “to record in a notarial instrument” or “to formalize in a notarial document”). In that regard, elevación a público refers to the procedure of appearing before a (civil law) notary to execute a private document, contract, etc. so that it may be recorded in a notarial instrument (escritura pública) to be preserved in his or her notarial records (protocolo). Thus, for example, elevar a público el nombramiento del administrador does not denote “making the director’s appointment public” (as the expression has sometimes been rendered),but rather “recording the director’s appointment in a notarial instrument.”

Confusing Terms in Spanish-English Legal Translation: “national” isn’t nacionalista

Confusing Terms2

When recently reviewing a judgment* of the European Court of Human Rights, I realized that the Ministry of Justice’s Spanish version of that document confuses “national” with nacionalista. In English, when identifying a person’s country of origin, “national” means “citizen of:” “Paco Pérez, a Spanish national” = Paco Pérez, de nacionalidad española (or) Paco Pérez, ciudadano español, etc. In the judgment in question, the applicants were identified as “Hungarian nationals,” but appeared in the Spanish translation as nacionalistas húngaros (“Hungarian nationalists”). Perhaps this was some sort of Freudian slip, given the presence of nationalist political parties in the Basque Country, Catalonia, and elsewhere in Spain (whether the term nacionalista actually appears in the party’s name or not).

In other respects and as noted above, in Spanish contracts the ever-present de nacionalidad española is indeed used to indicate that a party to the agreement is “a Spanish national.” But the meaning may be slightly different when the parties are corporate entities rather than individuals. Empresa X, de nacionalidad española is obviously not “Company X, a Spanish national,” but rather “Company X, a Spanish corporation” or perhaps, adopting the expression often found in Anglo-American contracts, “a company incorporated under the laws of Spain.”

*Karácsony and others v. Hungary