is a fairly recent term (first recorded in 1914) for the complicated technical language used in legal documents. Legal language has become complex and difficult for the lay person to understand because of a need to be both precise and comprehensive in the points made; nonetheless, there is now a vigorous campaign in progress, led (in the UK) by the Plain English Campaign and (in the US) by the Plain English Forum and others, to simplify legal language in everyone's interests. These intentions are hardly new. Nearly 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, third president of the US, railed against statutes ‘which from verbosity, their endless tautologies, their involutions of case within case, and parenthesis within parenthesis, and their multiplied efforts at certainty, by saids and aforesaids, by ors and ands, to make them more plain, are really rendered more perplexed and incomprehensible, not only to common readers, but to the lawyers themselves’ (quoted in D. Mellinkoff, The Language of the Law, 1963). Tom McArthur, a well-known writer on language, reported in the Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992), 595, that ‘in 1983, an English court ordered a law firm to pay £93,000 damages for unintentionally misleading a client by using “obscure” legal language in a letter of advice’. Martin Cutts, in the Oxford Guide to Plain English (2004), devotes a chapter to lucid legal language, and gives examples of complex language rewritten in a simpler form. As well as indicating complexities of grammatical structure, he points to words and phrases that notoriously cause difficulty to those not versed in the law: aforesaid, be empowered to, failure to comply with, forthwith, heretofore, in the event of, pursuant to, the said —, thereto, and many others.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • legalese — le·gal·ese /ˌlē gə lēz, lēs/ n: the specialized language of the legal profession Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of Law. Merriam Webster. 1996. legalese …   Law dictionary

  • legalese — le‧gal‧ese [ˌliːglˈiːz] noun [uncountable] informal LAW language used by lawyers that most people find difficult to understand: • The statement will be read by the witness and the client, and should not be written in legalese. * * * legalese UK… …   Financial and business terms

  • legalese — n. A style of writing or speaking heavily emphasizing the abstruse technical vocabulary of the law, to the point where a speech or document may be incomprehensible to non specialists. [WordNet 1.5] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • legalese — the language of legal documents, 1914, from LEGAL (Cf. legal) + language name ending ESE (Cf. ese) …   Etymology dictionary

  • legalese — ► NOUN informal ▪ the formal and technical language of legal documents …   English terms dictionary

  • legalese — [lē΄gəl ēz′] n. the conventional language of legal forms, documents, etc., involving special vocabulary and formulations, often thought of as abstruse and incomprehensible to the layman …   English World dictionary

  • legalese — noun Date: 1914 the specialized language of the legal profession < replaced legalese with plain talk Steve Weinberg > …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • legalese — /lee geuh leez , lees /, n. language containing an excessive amount of legal terminology or of legal jargon. [1910 15; LEGAL + ESE] * * * …   Universalium

  • legalese — noun a) The technical talk of the legal profession, the argot of lawyers. b) Wording that resembles how a lawyer writes, especially such that is confusing to the layperson …   Wiktionary

  • legalese — le|gal|ese [ˌli:gəlˈi:z] n [U] informal language used by lawyers that is difficult for most people to understand …   Dictionary of contemporary English

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