101 legal maxims every law students must know

101 legal maxims strictly legal

What does Legal Maxims mean?

Legal maxims are established legal principles, or moral philosophy often used by legal professionals. The use of these 101 legal maxims varies in use on different subjects of law including Criminal Law, Civil Law, Corporate.

Maxim (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856): An established principle or proposition. A principle of law universally admitted, as being just and consonant with reason.”
We could also say that maxims are a result of the common law.
We shall discuss a few important legal maxims below in an orderly manner.


Ab Initio: From the beginning

Actiones legis: Law suits.

Assentio mentium: Meeting of minds usually referred to during an agreement.

Actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea: The act itself does not make one guilty unless done with a criminal intent.

Ad hoc: For this purpose

Actio personalis moritur cum persona: The personal right of action dies with the person.

Actionable per se – The very act is punishable and no proof of damage is required.

 Amicus Curiae – A friend of court or member of the Bar who is appointed to assist the Court.

Actori incumbit onus probandi: The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff.

Audi alteram partem – No man shall be condemned unheard or means to hear the other party or the rule of a fair hearing.


Bona fide – In good faith.

Boni judicis est judicium sine dilatione mandare excutioni: It is only the duty of a good judge tp cause execution to issue on a judgement without delay.

Bona Vacantia – Goods without an owner or goods on which there’s no claim of ownership.

Boni judicis lites dirimere est: It is the duty of a good judge to prevent litigation.


Caveat actor – Let the doer beware.

Caveat emptor – Let the buyer beware.

Certiorari – A writ by which orders passed by an inferior court is quashed.

Corpus – Body.

Corpus delicti – The facts and circumstances constituting a crime and Concrete evidence of a crime, such as a corpse (dead body).

Cusjus est dare ejus est disponere: He who has a right to give has a right to dispose of the gift.


Damnum sine injuria – Damage without injury.

De facto – In fact.

De jure – By law

De Minimis Non Curat Lex – The law does not govern trifles i.e unimportant things or the law ignores insignificant details.

Doti lex favet; praemium pudoris est ideo parcatur: The law favours dower; it is the reward of chastity, therefore let it be preserved.

Doli incapax – Incapable of crime.


Estoppel – Prevented from denying.

Ex gratia – As favour.

Ex parte – Proceedings in the absence of the other party.

Ex post facto – Out of the aftermath, or After the fact.

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio: No action arises on an immoral contract.


Fatum – An act or a deed.

Firmior et potentior est operatio legis quam dispositio hominis: The operation of law is firmerand more powerful than the will of a man.

Functus officio – No longer having power or jurisdiction. It also refers to an officer or agency whose mandate has expired, due to either the arrival of an expiry date or an agency having accomplished the purpose for which it was created.

Fraus est celare fraudem: It is a fraud to conceal a fraud.

Fraud est odiosa et non praesumenda: Fraud is odious(read: extreme offense) and is not to be presumed.


Generale nihil certum implicat: A general expression implies nothing certain.

Generalis regula generaliter est intelligenda: a general rule is to be genrally understood.


Habeas corpus – A writ to have the body of a person to be brought in before the judge.

Haeres est nomen collectum: Heir is a collective name.


Ignorantia juris non excusat – Ignorance of the law is a not an excuse. or Ignorance of law excuses no one.

Injuria sine damno – Injury without damage.

In lieu of – Instead of.

In personam – A proceeding in which relief Is sought against a specific person.

Innuendo – Spoken words which are defamatory because they have a double meaning.

Inter alia – Among other things.

In delicto: At fault.

Impotentia excusat legem: Impossiblity is an excuse in the law.

Idem: Same person or thing

In omnibus: In every respect.

In re dubia magis inciciatio quam affirmatio intelligenda: In a doubtful manner the negetive is to be understood rather than the affirmative.

Inter alia: Amongst other things.


Jus in rem – Right against the world at large.

Jus naturale – Natural law.

Justitia nemini neganda est – Justice is to be denied to nobody.

Judex non petest esse testis in propira cause: A judge cannot be a witness inhis own cause.

Judicium non debet esse illusorium, suum effectum habere debet: A judgement ought not to be illusory; it ought to have its proper effect.

Jura na turae sunt immutabilia: The laws of natural justice is immutable.


Locus standi – Right of a party to an action to appear and be heard by the court and be heard by the court.

Lex dabit remedium: The law ill give remedy.

Law est judicum tutissimus ductor: The law is the safest guide for judges.


Mala fide – In bad faith.

Mandamus – ‘We command’. A writ of command issued by a Higher Court to Government/Public Authority, to compel the performance of a public duty.

Mens rea – Guilty mind.

Mentri est contra mentem ire: TO lieis to act against the mind.

Mutatis Mutandis – To apply something it is as far as cirsumstances make it possible.

Mala grammatica non vitiat chartam: Bad grammar does not vitiliate or spoil or destroy or impair the legal validity a deed.


Nemo bis punitur pro eodem delicto – Nobody can be twice punished for the same offence.

Nemo plus juris transferre ad alium potest quam ipse habet: No one can transfer to another a larger right than he himself has.

Nemo poest facere per alium, quod per se non potest: No one can do through another what he cannot do himself.

Nemo prohibetur defensionibus uti: No one is forbidden to make use of several defenses.

Nemo punitur pro aliento delicto: No one is punished for the crime of an other.

Novation – Transaction in which a new contact is agreed by all parties to replace an existing contract.

Nemo debet essc judex in propria causa: No one should be the judge in his own case.


Obiter dictum – Things said by the way. It is generally used in law to refer to an opinion or non-necessary remark made by a judge. It does not act as a precedent.

Optima legum interpres est consuetudo: The best interpreter of law is custom.

Optimus interpres rerum est usus: The best interpreter of thing is usage.

Onus probandi – Burden of proof.


Pari passu – With an equal step; side by side; at the same rate or on an equal footing.

Per curiam: By the court.

Prima facie – On the face of it.

Pro rata: In proportion.

Post mortem: After death,


Quantum meruit – The right amount what one deserves.

Quantum: Amount

Qui facit per alium facit per se – He who acts through another is acting through himself.

Quid pro quo – Something for something or something in return.

Quo warranto – By what authority. A writ calling upon one to show under what authority he holds or claims a public office.

Qui non habet potestatem alienandi habet necessitatem retinendi: He who has not the power of alienating is under the necessity of retaining.

Qui non improbat, approbat: He who does not disapprove, approves.

Quia malitia supplet actatem: malice makes up for age

Quod per ma non possum nec per alium: What I cannot do through myself, I cannot do through another.

Quod vanum et inutile est lex non requirit: The law does not require what is in vain and useless.


Res: Matter, affair, thing, circumstance.

Res Judicata – A matter already judged.

Ratio decidendi – Principle or reason beneath a court judgement. or a rule on which a judicial decision is based.

Respondeat superior – Let the principal/ master answer.

Rex quod injustum est facere non potest: The king cannot do what is unjust.


Status quo – Current state of things.

Sine qua non – Without which nothing

Suo Motu – On its own motion.

Sublato fundamento cadit opus: The foundation being removed, the structure falls.

Suggestio falsi: The suggestion of something which is false.


Terra firma: Solid grounds.

Transit terra cum onoera: The land passes with its burden.


Uberrima fides: Utmost good faith,

Ubi jus ibi remedium – Where there is a right, there is a remedy.

Ubi eadem ratio ibi idem jus et de similibus ideam est judicium: When there is the same reason, then the law is the same, and the same judgement should be rendered as to similar things.


Verba debent intelligi cum effectu: Words should be understood with effect.

Vigilant non dormientibus jura subveniunt: The laww serve the vigilant and not the one who sleeps.

Vice versa – In reverse.

Volenti non fit injuria – Volantarily consenting to injury upon oneself negetivates the claim regarding the same.

Vox populi – Voice of the people. or the opinion of the majority of the people.


Waiver – Voluntarily giving up a right or a condition.

How are these legal maxims going to help you?

Apart from your professional life, these maxims help you strengthen your legal aptitude. Also, they are asked in may law entrance examinations such as CLAT(common law aptitude test), MCLET ( Maharastra Common Law Entrance Test), LSAT and other international examinations.

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