Legal Terms

When you are facing legal issues, it can be difficult to navigate the system and understand the jargon used by lawyers and other legal professionals. Whether you’re dealing with a lawsuit or simply trying to understand legal documents, having a working knowledge of legal terminology is essential. This miniature glossary of legal terms aims to provide you with a clear and concise understanding of key law words and court terms.

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Why Is It Important to Learn Legal Terminology?

Legal jargon can be difficult to understand, but it’s important to have at least a basic understanding of legal terms if you’re involved in any legal matter.

Here are 4 reasons why you should learn legal terminology:

  1. Understanding your rights: Knowing legal terms will help you understand your rights and any damages that you may be entitled to in a legal dispute.
  2. Better communication with your lawyer: Understanding legal jargon will make communication with your lawyer more efficient and effective. You’ll be better able to clearly express your concerns and understand your lawyer’s advice.
  3. Improved decision-making: Understanding legal terms can help you recognize the implications of different options and outcomes.
  4. More control over your case: Having a basic understanding of legal terms will allow you to actively participate in discussions and make informed decisions throughout the legal process.

However, it’s important to remember that legal terminology can be complex and nuanced.

The best way to ensure a full understanding of legal terms and how they apply to you is to work with a lawyer who has expertise handling your type of case.

Glossary of Legal Terms

In this glossary of law jargon, you will find easy-to-understand definitions of some of the most commonly used legal words. Since many legal terms are in Latin, like ‘pro se’ or ‘habeas corpus,’ it is important to have a good grasp on the meanings of these terms as they apply in civil law.

Whether you’re involved in a legal matter, studying law, or simply interested in understanding legal language, this glossary can be a valuable resource.

General Legal Terms

Legal terms are words or phrases that have a specific meaning in the legal field and are used to describe legal concepts, procedures, and principles.


Case refers to a legal dispute or a lawsuit, which can be either criminal or civil in nature. It can also refer to a claim that is being pursued through the legal system.


A claim is a legal demand for something, typically monetary compensation. A claim is usually made by a person or entity that believes they have suffered harm or injury due to the actions or negligence of another person or entity.


Compensation refers to a form of payment or benefits provided to someone as a result of a loss, injury, or damage. In a legal context, compensation may refer to the money paid to a plaintiff in a lawsuit to cover losses, expenses, and damages incurred as a result of a defendant’s actions or negligence.


Damages refers to the monetary compensation that a plaintiff seeks from a defendant in a civil lawsuit for harm or injury caused by a defendant’s actions or inaction. Different types of damages can be awarded, such as compensatory, punitive, nominal, and liquidated damages.

Damages are intended to compensate the plaintiff for their losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, personal property damage, and pain and suffering.


Evidence refers to any type of proof presented in a legal proceeding. Evidence can include documents, physical objects, or testimony used to support or refute a claim or allegation.

Law Firm

Law firms provide legal services to individuals and businesses. Some examples of different types of law firms include criminal defense, personal injury, corporate, intellectual property, family, employment, and immigration.

Learn more about different types of law firms:


A lawsuit is a legal dispute between two or more parties that is brought before a court for resolution. The plaintiff, who initiates the lawsuit, alleges (claims) that the defendant has violated their legal rights in some way and seeks a remedy or compensation for damages.

Lawsuits can involve a variety of legal issues, such as contract disputes, personal injury claims, and employment discrimination cases.

Learn more about different types of lawsuits:


A lawyer is a person who is trained in the law. They may or may not be licensed to practice law. They may specialize in a particular area of law, such as criminal law, family law, or corporate law.

Did you know?

A lawyer is not the same as an attorney, as an attorney is authorized to practice law and can represent clients in court.

Legal Practice

Legal practice refers to the work of a lawyer or a law firm, such as providing legal advice, drafting legal documents, representing clients in legal proceedings, and negotiating legal matters.

Legal Rights

Legal rights are the rights individuals have under the law. Individuals may be able to seek legal remedies if their rights are violated. For example, people have the right to a fair trial, the right to free speech, the right to own property, and the right to practice religion.


Litigation is the process of taking legal action through the court system. In the United States, litigation often begins in a trial court, where a judge or jury makes an initial decision. This decision can then be appealed to a higher court. The U.S. Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the country.

Statute of Limitations

A statute of limitations sets a time limit for bringing a legal action. This deadline usually begins on the date of the accident or injury. In asbestos cases, the clock typically starts when a person is diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, and in wrongful death cases it starts on the date of death.

If the statute of limitations has passed, a person may be barred from suing. These laws differ by state and case type and may be extended or tolled under certain circumstances.

Legal Case Terms

Legal case terms are words and phrases used to describe various aspects of a case or legal proceeding. These terms include concepts related to the type of case, a person’s legal rights and responsibilities, evidence, damages, compensation, and other relevant factors.


Credibility refers to the quality of being trusted or believed, often based on a person’s reputation, expertise, or reliability in presenting information or testimony.


Certiorari is a legal order issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal, requesting the lower court to send up the record of a case for review.


A claimant is an individual or entity that files a legal claim or lawsuit seeking compensation or other relief.


Counsel refers to a legal advisor, such as a lawyer or attorney, who provides legal advice and representation to an individual or organization.


In legal terms, a decedent refers to a deceased person.


A defendant facing criminal charges appears in court for arraignment to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. In civil cases, the defendant refers to the person or entity that the plaintiff is suing.

Liable Party

Liable party refers to a person or entity that is legally responsible or accountable for something, usually for damages or losses suffered by another person or party. In legal terms, the liable party is often the defendant or respondent in a civil lawsuit.

Mass Tort

Mass tort is a civil action involving numerous plaintiffs who have suffered similar harm or injuries caused by a common defendant or group of defendants. An example of this is a lawsuit seeking damages from a pharmaceutical company or manufacturer because of a dangerous drug or a defective product.

Mass tort cases typically involve complex litigation and may be consolidated into a single court proceeding for efficiency.

Multidistrict Litigation

Multidistrict litigation (MDL) is a legal procedure in the U.S. federal court system in which civil cases involving a common question of fact are coordinated for pretrial purposes.

Did you know?

The goal of an MDL is to consolidate cases from multiple districts into a single court in order to save time and resources for all parties involved.


A plaintiff is a person or entity that initiates a lawsuit in a court of law, typically seeking a legal remedy for an alleged harm or injury.


Verdict refers to a court ruling made by a judge or jury in a trial.

Legal Claim Terms

Legal claim terms include specific legal language and terminology used in lawsuits and legal disputes to describe the parties involved, their actions, and outcomes of the case.


An affidavit is a written statement made under oath or affirmation, which is often used as evidence in legal proceedings. It contains facts relevant to a particular court case. The person making the affidavit declares that the information is true to the best of their knowledge.


Liability refers to the legal responsibility for one’s actions or omissions that result in harm to another person or property.

Medical Malpractice Claim

A medical malpractice claim is a legal claim filed against a hospital, doctor, nurse, or other health care professional when the care provided falls short of the accepted standard of care. Medical malpractice may result in injury or death to a patient.


Negligence refers to the failure of a person to take reasonable care or precautions that a prudent person would have taken under similar circumstances.

Personal Injury Claim

A personal injury claim is a legal action filed against a person or company that caused an individual to suffer harm or injury. Examples of personal injury cases include slip-and-fall accidents, car accidents, and premises liability claims.

Product Liability Claim

A product liability claim is a legal claim against a manufacturer, distributor, or seller of a defective or dangerous product that causes injury or harm to a consumer. Examples of product liability claims include defective medical devices, dangerous drugs, and defective products like faulty automobile parts.


A settlement is an alternative dispute resolution between two parties outside of court, typically through negotiation or mediation. In a settlement, both parties come to an agreement on the terms of the resolution, which can include monetary compensation, specific actions, or other obligations.


A subpoena is a court order requiring someone to appear in court, provide testimony, or produce documents for a legal proceeding.

Workers’ Compensation Claim

A workers’ compensation claim is a claim made against a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who have suffered a work-related injury or illness. Such claims cover medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs.

In exchange for receiving these benefits, the employee gives up their right to sue their employer for negligence.

Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death claim is a type of lawsuit that can be filed when a person dies as a result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party.

Lawsuit Terms

Lawsuit terms refer to legal jargon used in the context of a civil or criminal legal case, such as defendant, plaintiff, verdict, grand jury, liability, and settlement.


Acquittal refers to a legal decision that finds a defendant not guilty of the crime they were charged with.

Civil Lawsuit

A civil lawsuit is a legal dispute between two or more parties seeking compensation for damages caused by one party’s actions. Civil lawsuits are typically resolved through monetary damages or specific performance.

Class Action Lawsuit

A class action lawsuit is a type of legal action in which a large group of people collectively sues another party, typically a corporation or organization. Class actions are filed on behalf of individuals who have suffered a similar harm or injury due to the actions or negligence of the defendant.

Criminal Lawsuit

A criminal lawsuit is a legal proceeding brought by the government against an individual or entity accused of committing a crime. Criminal cases can result in imprisonment, fines, or other penalties if the defendant is found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a higher standard of proof than probable cause.


A decision made by a court in a lawsuit is called a judgment. Judgments determine the rights and obligations of the parties involved.


A trial that ends before it concludes due to an error or mistake that may have prejudiced one or both parties, making it impossible to proceed with the trial, is known as a mistrial.


Testimony is evidence provided by a witness under oath, either in court or through a deposition, in a legal proceeding.

Legal Process Terms

Legal process terms refer to the various steps, procedures, and actions that are taken within the legal system.


A witness’ out-of-court sworn testimony that may be used in a legal proceeding, which is recorded by a court reporter or other authorized person, is called a deposition.


Discovery is the pre-trial phase where each party in a lawsuit can request evidence and information from the opposing party. Such evidence can include documents, witnesses, and other relevant materials.


The official record of all cases that are pending in a court, which includes information about the parties, public defenders, and scheduled hearings, is called the docket.


A court proceeding where arguments are presented and evidence is considered, usually before a judge, to resolve a specific issue in a case, is called a hearing.


Interrogatories are written questions that one party in a lawsuit sends to the other party to obtain information relevant to the case.

Motions and Pleading Lists

Motions and pleading lists are formal written requests or documents filed with a court by a party in a lawsuit, such as a motion to dismiss, motion for summary judgment, or a complaint.


Probate is the legal process of administering a person’s estate after their death, including distributing assets and paying debts and taxes.


Trials are formal court proceedings where evidence is presented, witnesses testify, and arguments are made by both sides to determine the outcome of a case. A trial can be held in a lower court for a misdemeanor or in a higher court for a felony, and the amount of money at stake may vary.

In some cases, parties may agree to resolve their dispute through arbitration instead of a trial.

Legal Practice Terms

Legal practice terms refer to the specific language and terminology used within the legal profession to describe various aspects of legal work, procedures, and transactions.

Bankruptcy Law

Bankruptcy law deals with individuals or organizations that are unable to pay their debts. The primary purpose of bankruptcy law is to provide debt relief to the debtor while ensuring that the creditor’s rights are also protected.

Learn more about bankruptcy legal terms:

Corporate Law

Corporate law is a set of legal rules and practices that govern the formation, operation, and dissolution of corporations. It includes a wide range of legal topics, such as corporate governance, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, securities regulation, and intellectual property.

Criminal Defense

Criminal defense is the legal representation of individuals or organizations charged with a crime. A criminal defense lawyer works to protect the rights of the accused and provide a defense against criminal charges.

Find out more about criminal defense:

Defamation Law

A defamation lawsuit is a civil lawsuit that seeks to hold someone accountable for making false and harmful statements about another person.

Divorce Law

Divorce law is a legal area that deals with the termination of a marriage.

Here are some key terms related to divorce law:

  • Alimony: A court-ordered payment made by one spouse to the other for financial support after a divorce.
  • Dissolution: The legal termination of a marriage by a court.
  • Equitable distribution: The process of dividing marital property and assets in a fair and just manner during a divorce.
  • Mediation: A process in which a neutral third party helps the divorcing couple come to an agreement on issues such as child custody, alimony, and property division.
  • Legal custody: The right and responsibility to make important decisions about a child’s upbringing, such as education, medical care, and religious practices.
  • Premarital agreement: Also known as a prenuptial agreement, a legal document that outlines how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce.
  • Qualified domestic relations order: A court order that allows a portion of a retirement account to be transferred to a former spouse after a divorce.
  • Stipulation: An agreement between divorcing parties that resolves a specific issue, such as child custody or property division.

Real Estate Law

Real estate law is a legal area that governs various aspects of property ownership and transactions.

Learn more about real estate law:

Lawyer Terminology

Lawyer terminology includes a wide range of legal terms and jargon used by lawyers and legal professionals to describe legal concepts, procedures, and actions.


The term attorney is often used interchangeably with lawyer. However, an attorney is someone who is licensed to practice law and represent clients in court.

A lawyer, on the other hand, is someone who has completed law school so has legal knowledge and training, but in most cases, is not authorized to represent individuals in court.


A counselor, also called a legal counselor, is another term for attorney or lawyer. Counselors are legal professionals who provide guidance, advice, and support to clients in making important decisions related to legal matters.

Find Help for Your Legal Case

Looking for help in understanding your legal case? Don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted attorney who can guide you through the process.

With their knowledge and expertise, they can help you explore your legal options and determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

Contact a reputable law firm today to find the help you need.

Written by: makes it easier to take legal action. We have information, lawsuit guides, and breaking news about drugs, products, and other issues that could affect you.

ReferencesView References
  1. Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. (n.d.). Glossary of Legal Terms. Retrieved on April 5th, 2023 from
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. (n.d.). Justice 101: Glossary. Retrieved on April 5th, 2023 from

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