Legal Terms Every Translation Professional Should Know

Legal Terms Every Professional Should Know

Is it ALL Greek to you!

If you’ve ever uttered that phrase regarding legalese, the terminology of legal documents that is often and understandably difficult to understand, this article will serve as a necessary primer. No matter which industry or field a modern professional works in, invariably their work will involve legal aspects as applied to business/marketing research, analysis, documentation and compliance with local, state and federal judicial systems. ASTA-USA has been providing legal document translation services since 1987; allow us to translate the legal “Greek” for you.  Here’s a list of legal terms every translation professional should know.


  • Adjective lawThe aggregate of rules of procedure or practice.
  • Administrative lawThe body of rules and procedures that organizes government and provides mechanisms for redress of grievances as a result of decisions or actions of government.
  • Cause of actionThe fact or combination of facts that gives a person the right to seek judicial redress or relief against another.
  • Civil lawbody of rules that delineate private rights and remedies and govern disputes between individuals.
  • Compensatory damagessum of money awarded in a civil action by a court.
  • Constitutional lawThe written text of the state and federal constitutions.
  • DemurrerAn assertion by the defendant that although the facts alleged by the plaintiff in the complaint may be true, they do not entitle the plaintiff to prevail in the lawsuit.
  • DeposeTo give testimony that is reduced to writing by a duly qualified officer and sworn to by the deponent.
  • Diligence – Reasonable care or attention to a matter.
  • Felonyserious crime, characterized under federal law and many state statutes as any offense punishable by death or imprisonment in excess of one year.
  • MalfeasanceThe commission of an act that is unequivocally illegal or completely wrongful.
  • Mens reaGuilty knowledge and wilfulness.
  • MisdemeanorOffenses lower than felonies and generally those punishable by fine, penalty, forfeitureor imprisonment other than in a penitentiary.
  • Prima faciefact presumed to be true unless it is disproved.
  • Provisional remedy – A generic term for any temporary order of a court to protect a party from irreparable damage while a lawsuit or petition is pending.
  • Punitive damagesMonetary compensation awarded to an injured party.
  • Stare decisisThe policy of courts to abide by or adhere to principles established by decisions in earlier cases.
  • StatuteAn act of a legislature that declares, proscribes, or commands something.
  • Title abstract –  A history of the chain of title.
  • TortFrench for wrong, a civil wrong, or wrongful act, whether intentional or accidental, from which injury occurs to another.

No matter which sector or industry, all professionals should at least be aware of basic legal terminology. If it’s still all “Greek” to you, let ASTA-USA handle your legal document translation needs for you.

Get the help you need – Contact ASTA-USA.

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