Legal Glossary T – Z

Legal Glossary T – Z

Legal Glossary  T – Z – as always, for missing and confusing terms, tell me!

Semantic Shenanigans Legal Glossary T - Z

A – G

H – M

N – S

First of all, this glossary does not substitute for a good legal dictionary. And we provide it solely to assist you in reading some of our blog posts and in listening to our shows.



Impress your friends with this definition! Okay, I’m just kidding. A tailage means a tax or a toll. See: tailage.


Similar to eminent domain, a taking constitutes when the government takes a part of personal property. Furthermore, the government must provide compensation. See: taking.

Tenth Amendment

The Tenth amendment to the United States Constitution states, in its entirety:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

See: Tenth Amendment.

Third Amendment

The Third amendment to the United States Constitution states, in its entirety:

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

See: Third Amendment.


Probably related to words like contortionist and torus, a tort means just a civil (not criminal!) wrong. And torts have been with us seemingly forever. Because some of the oldest legal writings discuss torts. Civil assault and battery, defamation, nuisance, negligence, product liability, and trespass all come under the tort banner. So generally speaking, if a legal matter isn’t criminal, it’s not a civil rights matter or a will, and it’s not a contract or a sale of land, then it’s probably a tort. See: tort.


A trademark constitutes a species of intellectual property. Furthermore, it is a distinctive mark used to show manufacture. The Nike swoosh is a trademark. See: trademark.

Trespass to Chattels

Chattel means a good or an article (e. g. not land). However animals, including both livestock and pets, also encompass chattel. Trespass refers to an invasion. And while we normally think of it as being to land, it can be to goods as well. In addition, in law school, we learned this concept via a case about a child bothering a neighbor’s dog. See: trespass to chattel.

Trespass to Land

Unlike trespass to chattels, trespass to land comes a lot closer to what we normally think, when we use this term. See: trespass.


A trust is a beneficial right held by one person or entity for another. Furthermore, trusts are often created for the benefit of minors or the disabled, since they may need help with their finances (these people are often also appointed guardians to help them). See: trust.


Unclean Hands

See: unclean hands.

n. a legal doctrine which is a defense to a complaint, which states that a party who is asking for a judgment cannot have the help of the court if he/she has done anything unethical in relation to the subject of the lawsuit. Thus, if a defendant can show the plaintiff had “unclean hands,” the plaintiff’s complaint will be dismissed or the plaintiff will be denied judgment. Unclean hands is a common “affirmative defense” pleaded by defendants and must be proved by the defendant. Example: Hank Hardnose sues Grace Goodenough for breach of contract for failure to pay the full amount for construction of an addition to her house. Goodenough proves that Hardnose had shown her faked estimates from subcontractors to justify his original bid to Goodenough.

Unsecured Creditor

In relation to bankruptcy matters, an unsecured creditor (as opposed to a secured creditor of course) provided a loan or extended credit to another without the security provided by taking collateral. See: unsecured creditor.



We tend to use this word as a synonym for place. However, the legal definition differs. And in contrast to jurisdiction, venue means the county wherein a proceeding can be heard. In addition, usually, venue relates directly to legal parties’ places of residence. However, it might mean the location of a tort. Yet it can also mean where a corporate party is incorporated or has offices. See: venue.


A settlement does not equal a verdict! Furthermore, a verdict is the decision handed down by a trier of fact. And a trier of fact is a jury. However, in a non-jury trial, it can be the judge (the judge is the trier of law in both such instances). See: verdict.

Voir Dire

Voir dire essentially means to question prospective jurors. The idea: to attempt to ferret out bias. However, it also works as a means of understanding jurors’ personalities. Naturally, the attorneys have an incomplete picture. But if they see the foreperson (in some jurisdictions, the foreperson is elected, whereas in others, it depends on the seat he or she sits in) seems indecisive and timid, that can give the lawyers an idea of someone else to direct their statements to. While the lawyers talk to all of the jurors, the better ones tend to direct their words, body language, and eye contact at the jurors who seem most sympathetic to their side, or who seem most likely to sway other jurors. See: voir dire.



Waiver – a word used in more than one legal area. Often, the term refers to abandoning or formally giving up a privilege or right. See: waiver.


A will works as more or less an instruction sheet for a deceased’s survivors. You can die without a will, and a lot of people do. See: last will and testament.



Okay, I admit it; I needed an X for this glossary. While a xenodochium means an inn, but it can also mean a hospital. See: xenodochium.


Year and a Day

A year and a day has significance in the law (never mind that it can sometimes be 366 days and sometimes 367. Call it 367, okay?). Before modern medical advances, injuring a person meant possible murder if the victim died within a year and a day of injury. However, these days, we have much better techniques for determining medical cause and effect. Although the law and the time period still exist on the books in some places. A year and a day can also constitute a time period which must pass before an unclaimed wreck becomes public property. See: year and a day.


Zealous Defense

Also called zealous advocacy when the client is not a defendant (e. g. a plaintiff or an appellant). All defendants (even if their lawyers think they are guilty!) are entitled to a zealous defense. Keep in mind that, for lawyer, this can create ethical issues. While we are not supposed to lie for our clients, and we are supposed to investigate at least some of their statements. However, we can take many at face value unless we see a pattern of deceit. And eventually, with enough of a recurring pattern of deceit, lawyers are forced into choices between protecting a client and protecting their own integrity.

For a great read on this, I recommend a book I received as a gift before I started law school: The Conscience of a Lawyer if you want a look at some hypotheticals in this area. See: zealous defense.

Zombie Debt

What an awesome term! So a zombie debt means an old (more or less forgotten) debt brought ‘back to life’ via collections. See: zombie debt.

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