Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Dominion Utile Definition:

Latin: the property rights of a tenant; exclusive right to use a thing

Related Terms: Tenancy, Tenant, Vassal, Feudal System, Dominium Directum, Lease, Estover

Also spelled dominium utile.

James Ballentine's dictionary defines dominium utile as the "equitable or beneficial ownership of property", thus contrasting with dominium plenum being "full or complete ownership of property".


While not owning the property in a legal sense, the tenant, as having dominion utile, enjoys full and exclusive possession and use of the property.

Consider also the definition submitted by Anderson in his 1889 Dictionary of Law:

"Dominium utile: beneficial ownership, enjoyment."

In Emptio (Nondum) Tollit Locatum, E. J. H. Schrage wrote:

"In the Middle Ages ... the positions of ... vassal were designated by dominium utile. Dominium utile is opposed to dominium directum; the latter term stands for those normal cases of dominium in Roman law, as well as the position of the feudal lord...."


  • Anderson, William C., A Dictionary of Law (Chicago: T. H. Flood & Company, 1889), page 376.
  • Ballentine, J., Ballentine's Law Dictionary, 3rd Ed. (Rochester: The Lawyers Co-operative Publishing Company, 1969), page 370.
  • Schrage, E. J. H., Emptio (Nondum) Tollit Locatum, 1978 Acta Juridica 13

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