Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Salus Populi Est Suprema Lex Definition:

Latin: the welfare of an individual yields to that of the community.

Related Terms: Fiat Justitia Ruat Caelum

Also known as salus populi suprema lex, as it is rendered by Broom who defines the maxim as:

"The good of the individual ought to yield to that of the community....

"This phrase is based on the implied agreement of every member of society that his own individual welfare shall, in cases of necessity, yield to that of the community; and that his property, liberty and life shall, under certain circumstances, be placed in jeopardy or even sacrificed for the public good"

Translated literally: The health, safety or welfare of the public is the supreme law.

Cicero used this phrase in his publication de Legibus.

The phrase was the concluding paragraph of the Roman Twelve Tables.

Francis Bacon wrote of salus populi est supreme lex:

"Judges ought above all to remember salus populi est supreme lex ... and to know that laws, except they be in order to that end, are but things captious and oracles not well inspired."

This Latin maxim has been used to justify damages for the tort of nuisance as including the legal requirement that one not use his/her property as unreasonably to injure others.


  • Broom, H., A Selection of Legal Maxims (London, Sweet & Maxwell Limited, 1939), page 1.
  • Cook County v Chicago 31 ALR 442 (USA)

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