Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Hereditas Damnosa Definition:

Latin: an inheritance that is more of a burden than a benefit.

Also damnosa heriditas.

A cursed inheritance; also used to refer to a an estate in which debts overwhelm assets.

Alexander Burrill, in his 1867 dictionary on the law, defines damnosa heriditas:

“In the civil law, a losing inheritance.

"An inheritance that was a charge, instead of a benefit.”

For a sample of usage in legal context, consider these words of Draper in his 1976 article in Acta Juridica:

"Torture was fully established in the Roman ... law with much complexity as to who might be the victim, who might inflict it and for what purposes.

"As Roman law was the great inheritance bequeathed from the ancient world to Western Europe it followed that torture formed part of that legacy, a hereditas damnosa, if ever there was one."


  • Burrill, A., Law Dictionary and Glossary, Vol. I (New York: Baker, Voorhis & Co., Law Publishers, 1867), page 418.
  • Draper, G., Juridical Aspects of Torture, 1976 Acta Juridica 221 (1976)

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