Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Cognovit Definition:

Latin: confession. Used in the common law to refer to a pleading in which a claim is confessed.

Related Terms: Pleadings, Confession

A cognovit is sometimes expressed as a cognovit actionem ("he has confessed the action").1

In older English pleadings there was a form for "Cognovit, also known as Confession".

The 1947, 17th edition of Chitty's Forms, proposed that the proper pleading of a cognovit was as follows:

"I confess the action and that the plaintiff is entitled to recover therein £___ (the amount of plaintiff's claim confessed), which sum the plaintiff is entitled to recover against me in this action besides his costs of action (as between solicitor and client), to be taxed ... to the amount of £___...."2

Cognovit BoothBecause of the potential for abuse, cognovits are not everywhere legal. For example:

  • "No Cognovit Actionem or Warrant of Attorney to confess judgment has any force or effect." [§58, Law and Equity Act, RSBC 1996, c 253, 2014); and

  • "Every confession of judgment, cognovit actionem or warrant of attorney to confess judgment given by a person, being at the time in insolvent circumstances or unable to pay his, her or its debts in full or knowing himself, herself or itself to be on the eve of insolvency, voluntarily or by collusion with a creditor with intent thereby to defeat, hinder, delay or prejudice creditors wholly or in part, or to give one or more creditors a preference over other creditors or over any one or more of them, is void as against the creditors of the person giving the same and is ineffectual to support any judgment or execution." [§3, Assignments and Preferences Act, RSO 1990, c A.33, 2014]


  • NOTE 1: Oppé, A., Wharton's Law Lexicon, 14th Ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1955), page 209.
  • NOTE 2: Bowie, Percy, Chitty's Forms of Civil Proceedings in the King's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice, 17th Ed. (London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1947), page 833.

Categories & Topics:

Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!