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The French Legacy

 

But perhaps the greatest legacy bequeathed by the French language is the wealth of French legal terminology that became conveniently borrowable after the Conquest and was adopted into English. Moreover, many of them have passed into general use. Most of the words that are basic to law English law vocabulary stem from French sources. They include:

action

agreement

appeal

arrests

arson

assault

attorneys

battery

bill

claim

condition

constables

contract

counsel

count

court

covenant

crime

damage

debt

declaration

defendant

demand

descent

devise

easement

evidence

execution

felony

gaols (jails)

grant

guarantee

guardian

heir

indictment

infant

judges

judgment

jurors

justice

justices

larceny

lien

marriage

misdemeanor

money

note

obligation

pardon

parties

partner

payment

plaintiff

pleadings

pledge

police

possession

prisons

property

purchase

reprieve

robbery

sentence

servant

slander

suit

tort

treason

trespass

verdict

So large is the French element in legal vocabulary, that it appears to cover almost every aspect of the law as well as its most fundamental concepts. A small but illuminating representative selection of French loan-words, made by J. A. Sheard, deals with some of these aspects. Thus among names of crimes we find adultery, arson, assault, battery, burglary, felony, fraud, larceny, libel, perjury, slander, and trespass. The names of people connected with the court (itself a French word) are usually French, such as advocate, attorney, bailiff, coroner, defendant, judge, jury, and plaintiff. Among the various processes of court we find bail, bill, decree, evidence, fine, forfeit, gaol (jail), inquest, petition, plea, prison, proof, punishment, ransom, sentence, suit, summons, and verdict. Actions involving succession or possession of property introduced assets, chattels, dowry, entail, estate, executor, heir, heritage, lease, legacy, patrimony, property, and tenure. Verbs were adopted to deal with actions taking place at law, such as accuse, acquit, arraign, arrest, banish, blame, condemn, convict, embezzle, indict, pardon, plead, pledge, seize, sue, and warrant. There are also adjectives such as culpable, innocent, and just

 

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LEGAL ENGLISH

  The Origins of Legal English

  Attempts to Restrict Law French

  "Turning Law into English"

  Tenacity of Law French

  Legal English Today

  Doubling, Tripling & Quadrupling

  The French Legacy

  An Example of Modern Legal English

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