Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Oath Definition:

A religious or solemn affirmation to tell the truth or to take a certain action.

Related Terms: Perjury, Affidavit

“An oath is an unequivocal act, before an officer authorized to administer oaths, by which the person knowingly attests to the truth of a statement and assumes the obligations of an oath."

With this, Justice Thomas Sawaya of the District Court of Appeal of Florida, in Crain v State, defined an oath.

An oath is a requirement of an affidavit which is by definition a statement in writing under an oath administered by a duly authorized person.

Starrier definitions are hardly known to the law than this legacy of Justice Starr of the United States District Court (Michigan) in the 1963 case In re Bennett, though Justice Starr was reversed on appeal:

Oath: An external pledge or asseveration, made in verification of statements made, or to be made, coupled with an appeal to a sacred or venerated object, in evidence of the serious and reverent state of mind of the party, or with an invocation to a supreme being to witness the words of the party, and to visit him with punishment if they be false.”

More recently, similar words issued in the Utah bankruptcy case of In re Williamson, Justice Glen Clark presiding:

“An oath is an affirmation of the truth of a statement, which renders one willfully asserting an untruth punishable for perjury. In its strict sense the term refers to an attestation that is coupled with an invocation to the Supreme Being to witness the words of the attesting party and to visit him with judgment if the words be false. In its more general sense, the term oath includes any attestation or affirmation whereby a party signifies that he is bound in conscience to perform an act faithfully or speak truly, regardless whether or not that attestation invokes the Supreme Being or is accompanied by a conditional self-cursing….

“Moreover … the essentials of an oath are: 1. A solemn declaration. 2. Manifestation of intent to be bound by the statement. 3. Signature of the declarer. 4. Acknowledgment by an authorized person that the oath was taken.”

The usual mode of administering oaths is by the person who swears holding up the right hand.

In US v Klink, Justice Kennedy of the District Court, D. Wyoming wrote:

“In the eyes of the law, an oath is considered to be an affirmation of the truth of a statement and renders liable to punishment for perjury one who willfully asserts that which is not true. The dignity and solemnity of such a transaction should not rest upon the basis of a mere signature and the presumed mental operation of the signer.”

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