Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Tithe Definition:

A tenth or a recurring payment to a church usually, but not always, of a tenth of a person's earnings.

Related Terms: Church

A tenth of something, as in tithing to the church is the giving of a tenth of one's income to some church.1

In Burn's dictionary:

"Tithes are the tenth part of the increase yearly arising and renewing from the profits of lands, the stock upon lands, and the personal industry of the inhabitants....Tithes of common right belong to that church within the precincts of whose parish they arise."

In Plowden's 1806 book The Principles and Law of Tithing, tithing is described as:

"... the provision or revenue allotted to and settled upon the clergy or ministers of that religion as their fixed estate."

According to the 4th edition of Halsbury's Laws of England, a tithe is the gift of a tenth of all produce of a piece of land to a church, "which are due to God and consequently to His church's ministers for their personal maintenance".

That includes a tenth of all increase or product from crops and livestock but, apparently "animals ferae naturae are not tithable".

tithesAccording to ecclesiastical law, tithes are classified as predial tithes (a proportion of produce which comes from the ground such as fruit and crops), personal tithes (from the profits of labour "after charges deducted") and mixt tithes (a tenth of livestock and including eggs and dairy products).

The Biblical reference or authority for the custom is at 14 Genesis.

In the jurisdiction of the common law and ecclesiastic law or custom, a system of tithing as a means of subsidizing the local church in England, dates back to St. Boniface (680-755).


  • Blunt, John Henry,  The Book of Church Law, 8th Ed. (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899), pages 337-346.
  • Burn, Richard, A New Law Dictionary, Volume II (London: A. Strathan and W. Woodfall, 1792), pages 379-380.
  • Estate of Kathryn Whitney, 329 P. 2d 104 (1958) and Schreckengost v Gospel Tabernacle, 149 A. 2d 542 (1959) [NOTE 1]
  • Phillips, Arthur and others, "Ecclesiastical Law", Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th Ed., Volume 14 (London: Butterworths, 1975), page 661 (§1209)
  • Plowden, Francis, The Principles and Law of Tithing (London: C. and R. Baldwin, 1806), page 8.

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