Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Duhaime's Civil Law Dictionary

This is a specialized sub-listing of our comprehensive Law Dictionary, where we've grouped terms relevant to this topic. If your civil law term is not here, do a SEARCH using the search box above. And because the civil law is a child of Roman law, see also our Latin Law Dictionary.

there is a clear pattern of rapprochement between the ancient common law and civil law systems. Wherever you look, now, you can see counter-parts of the concept of one system in the law books of the other.

With modern travel and communication, this was inevitable. After all, the law is based on human conduct and, frankly, in 2014, other than the quality of their respective hockey teams and a language switch, there's not much difference between potential torts and contract terms in Vancouver and Montréal.

And so, to be true to my readers, I have not re-invented the wheel for the sake of expounding distinctions when in fact, if not in law, none exists. For example, while academics in their cluttered university offices would decry this statement, there is little practical difference between the common law of tort and the civil law of delicts (or civil liability).

Defamation is diffamation, strict liability, la responsabilité stricte, passing-off, la commercialisation trompeuse, unjust enrichment is l'enrichissement sans cause, and so on and so forth.

Even those two last bastions of old English law, contract law and equity, timidly hide though their progeny persists as bold doctrines, the latter behind an esoteric concept of consideration that no right-minded modern judge would ever defer to in a real contract case except where it might be otherwise voidable as unconscionable.

Thus, I have extracted those terms which in fact are essentially the same in the common or in civil law and this Civil Law Dictionary only includes those terms which originates in the civil law, have no real common law counterpart; or which present as a distinct word in the civil law (eg. prescription instead of limitations and civil liability instead of tort).

Throughout the main Legal Dictionary, the civil law concept is distinguished if necessary, or the civil law French equivalent of a term is given at the bottom of the definition, right before references, if any.

Lloyd Duhaime, LL.B. Barreau du Québec, 1985; Law Society of British Columbia, 1997 and Law Society of Alberta, 1999

Accord and Satisfaction
The act of one party, having complied with its contractual obligation, accepting some type of compensation from the other party (usually money and of a lesser value) in lieu of enforcing the contract and holding the other party to their original obligation.
Adminiculum
Latin: some evidence tendered to support something else
Aleatory Contract
Civil law: a contract which depends on an uncertain event.
Alienate
To sell or otherwise dispose of property.
Antichresis
Civil law: the pledge of real property as security for a debt.
Authentic Act
Civil law: a contract or other legal document which has been properly prepared or authenticated by a court officer, such as a notary, and thereafter given enhanced evidentiary status of its authenticity.
Benefit of Inventory
A right of legal or testamentary beneficiaries to an estate to demand of the administrator an inventory of the estate.
Bonus pater familias
Latin: the good family man.
Canon Law
The law of the Church; based on religious beliefs.
Certificate of Inheritance
A formal legal probate document issued in Germany.
Civil Code
A document in civil law jurisdictions that purports to be a compendium of the applicable law as it pertains to the citizen.
Civil Covenant of Solidarity
A contract by two individuals of the age of majority, of different or same gender, to provide legal rights and obligations as a result of their cohabitation.
Civil Law
A body of law derived and evolved directly from Roman Law, the primary feature of which is that laws are struck in writing; codified, and not determined, as in the common law, by the opinions of judges based on historic customs.
Civil Liability
A civil law requirement to compensate another because of an unlawful injury to his/her person or property.
Civil Union
A formal union between two people, of the same or of different genders which results in, but falls short of, marriage-like rights and obligations.
Common Law
Judge-declared law. Law which exists and applies to a group on the basis of customs and legal precedents developed over hundreds of years in Britain.
Complementarity
The co-existence of two or more equally authoritative systems or sources of law.
Concubinage
Civil law term for an unmarried couple living nonetheless as husband and wife or, where same-sex relationships are recognized by law, such similar cohabitation relationships.
Confusion
Civil law: grounds for extinguishing a contractual obligation when creditor and debtor become the same person.
Contract
An agreement between persons which obliges each party to do or not to do a certain thing.
Contract Law
That body of law which regulates the formation and enforcement of contracts.
Co-ownership
A generic legal term that refers to various forms of ownership over one asset by more than one person.
Damnum Absque Injuria
Latin: harm absent a wrong.
Delict
A civil law term which imposes liability on a person who causes injury to another, or for injury caused by a person or thing under his custody.
Dereliction
The enlarging of land adjacent to water by the gradual retreat of the water line.
Emolument
Wages, benefits or other benefit received as compensation for holding some office or employment.
Emphyteusis
Civil law: a long-term lease of land or buildings; 99 years or such similar long term, or even in perpetuity.
Estover
Limited rights granted to a tenant of land to certain product of the land, mostly wood.
Exceptio Non Adimpleti Contractus
Latin: exception of a non-performed contract.
Fault
A breach of duty or negligence and, in some circumstances, the errors or omissions of others or of things under a person's control.
Force Majeure
French for an act of God; an inevitable, unpredictable act of nature, not dependent on an act of man.
Fungibles
Standard commercial movable things that are sold by measure, number or weight.
Furtum
Latin: theft or a thing stolen..
Gift
A transfer of property with nothing given in return.
Harassment
Unsolicited words or conduct which tend to annoy, alarm or abuse another person.
Hereditas Damnosa
Latin: an inheritance that is more of a burden than a benefit.
Heritable Obligation
A legal obligation or right which is not extinguished by the death of the person who held those rights, or was liable for the obligation, but are transferred to the estate.
Hypothec
A charge on property upon which an unpaid creditor may enforce payment of the debt.
Immovable
Land and fixtures thereto, civil law term.
Imputation of Payments
A civil law term: a system that allocates monies received from a debtor who has more than one debt and who has not, with the payment, specified to the creditor to which debt the monies are applied.
Incorporeal
Legal rights which are intangible such as copyrights or patents.
Interpretatio Cessat in Claris
Latin: Interpretation stops when a text is clear.
Intuitu Personae
Latin: Because of the person.
Juris Utriusque Doctor
Latin: a combined law degree, in both civil and canon law.
Jus
Latin: the law or a legal right.
Lex Non Scripta
Unwritten law; the common or custom law.
lex non scripta, diuturni mores consensus utensium comprobati
Latin: Law derived from custom must be firmly entrenched in practice and adopted and followed by tradition.
Mortis Omnia Solvit
Latin: Death puts an end to everything.
Movable
Civil law: things not attached to land and which may be carried from place to place.
Necessitas Indicit Privilegium Quoad Jura Privata
From necessity spring privileges upon private rights.
Non Compos Mentis
Latin: Not of sound mind.
Novation
Substitute a new debt for an old debt, canceling the old debt.
Nudum Pactum
Latin: an empty pact; a contract for which there is no consideration.
Obligations
A legal requirement established by law, contract or as a result of unlawful harm caused to the person or property of another.
Obligee
The person who is to receive the benefit of someone else's obligation.
Obligor
A person who is contractually or legally, committed or obliged, to providing something to another person (the obligee).
Pacta Sunt Servanda
Latin: agreements must be kept.
Patrimony
Civil law: the aggregate of things owned by a person.
Paulian Action
Civil law: a claim by a creditor against a third party to rescind any transfer of property made to the third party by the debtor done to frustrate enforcement of the creditor's debt.
Per Capita
Latin: by the head.
Peremption
A period of time fixed by law for the existence of a right.
Pia Causa
Latin: charitable purposes.
Pollicitation
Civil law: an offer which has not been accepted.
Potestative Condition
A condition made in a contract the fulfillment of which is entirely in the control of one of the parties to the contract.
Prescription
A method of acquiring or extinguishing rights through the inaction of the legal owner.
Private Law
Law which regulates the relationships between individuals.
Proctor
The short form of the term procurator, one who acts for another.
Procuration
Civil law: a power of attorney.
Procurator
One who has charge of a matter of behalf of another.
Profit à Prendre
A servitude which resembles an easement and which allows the holder to enter the land of another and to take some natural produce such as mineral deposits, fish or game, timber, crops or pasture.
Property
A comprehensive collection of legal rights over a thing.
Pro Possessore Habetur Qui Dolo Injuriave
Latin: he whose possession is taken away by fraud or injury will be deemed to continue to possess.
Quasi-Contract
Civil law: a contract implied and imposed by law resulting from certain actions of a person.
Quasi-Delict
Civil law: a delict (wrong) caused by negligence.
Qui Jure Suo Utitur Neminem Facit Injuriam
Latin: he who exercises his legal rights harms no one.
Rapina
Latin: to take away forcefully.
Real Obligation
A legal obligation associated with real property.
Recusation
An application made to a judge that he/she not hear a particular case because of a real or perceived conflict of interest; that the judge recuse himself (abstain) from the case.
Res Derelicta
Latin: a thing abandoned.
Roman Law
Form and content of law that was developed by the Romans during their 1,000 year empire starting in 500 BC; form in that it was written, and with content that sought to publish a comprehensive code of private law thus addressed a predictable structure for its people and the economy.
Seisin
The legal possession of property; historically, possession under claim of freehold.
Sequestration
The taking of someones property, voluntarily (by deposit) or involuntarily (by seizure), by court officers or into the possession of a third party, awaiting the outcome of a trial in which ownership of that property is at issue.
Servitude
From Roman law and now a feature of civil law; equivalent to the common law's easement: access rights over, under or on the property of another.
Solidary Obligation
Civil law: a legal relationship where one or more of several debtors are each liable to pay the entire amount, or one or more of several creditors each able to collect the whole.
Statutes
The written laws approved by legislatures, parliaments or elected or appointed houses of assembly.
Subrogation
The substitution of one person to the rights of another.
Synallagmatic Contract
A civil law term for a reciprocal or bilateral contract: one in which both parties provide consideration.
Usufruct
The rights to the product of another's property.
Vinculum Juris
Latin: a legal bound.

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