Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Per Se Definition:

Latin: of itself.

Related Terms: Absolute Nuisance, Ipso facto, Per Se Doctrine, Prima Facie

Latin Words and Phrases for Lawyers renders the Latin phrase as follows:

"Per se: By himself or itself, inherently, in itself."

John Bouvier used these words to define per se:

"Taken alone; by itself."

In Essential Latin for Lawyers, Russ VerSteeg writes:

"Per se: by itself.

"This phrase is often used in tort law to indicate that one set of circumstances creates a presumption that another thing exists. For example, if conduct is deemed negligence per se or slander per se, the plaintiff's burden of proof is substantially lower than it would have been otherwise.

"The court generally decides whether something is per se as a matter of law."

Per se defamation is when the publication being complained is obviously defamatory.1

In Sound Sorm, Justice Rawlings of the Supreme Court of Iowa wrote of the use of the phrase in the context of nuisance:

"Nuisances are usually categorized as per se on one hand, or per accidens on the other. The former is an act, occupation or structure which is a nuisance at all times, under any circumstances. The latter is that which becomes a nuisance by reason of surrounding circumstances."


  • Muck v. Van Bibber, 585 NE 2d 1147 (Justice Steigmann, Appellate Court of Illinois, 1992 - NOTE 1)
  • Sodhi, Datinder (publisher), Latin Words and Phrases for Lawyers (Toronto: Law and Business Publications (Canada) Inc., 1980), page 105
  • Sound Storm Ent., Inc. v. Keefe, In & For Fayette County., 209 NW 2d 560 (1973)
  • VerSteeg, Russ, Essential Latin for Lawyers (Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 1990), page 152.

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