Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Animus Definition:

Latin: intention.

Related Terms: Larceny, Animus Contrahendi, Animus Furandi

In New York State Organization for Women v Terry, Justice Cardamone of the United States Court of Appeals noted that the word animus does not, in and of itself, have any adverse or negative connotation. Animus merely refers to a person's basic attitude or intention.

In Pro-Choice, Justice Arcana of the United States District Court was even clearer:

"Animus means a motive or intent to interfere with the exercise of a right; not hostility, ill-will or personal animosity."

In his 1889 law dictionary, William Anderson defined animus as mind, disposition, intention (or) will.

Similarly, from the anonymous Latin for Lawyers:

"Animus: mind, intention."

animusShumaker and Longsdorf presented the legal definition of animus as:

"The intention with which an act is done....

"In order to constitute larceny, the thief must take the property animo furandi."

Some of the old Latin maxims which refer to animus include:


  • Anderson, William, A Dictionary of Law (Chicago: T. H. Flood and Company, 1889), page 60.
  • Latin for Lawyers (London: Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1960), page 244.
  • New York State Organization for Women v Terry, 886 F. 2d 1339 (1989)
  • Pro-Choice Network v. Project Rescue, 799 F. Supp. 1417 (1992)
  • Shumaker, Walter and Longsdorf, George Foster, The Cyclopedic Dictionary of Law Comprising the Terms and Phrases of American Jurisprudence, Including Ancient and Modern Common Law, International Law, and Numerous Select Titles From the Civil Law, the French and the Spanish Law, Etc., Etc. With an Exhaustive Collection of Legal Maxims, (St. Paul, Minnesota: Keefe- Davidson Law Book Company, 1901), page 52

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