Glossary of Terms & Definitions

A Law Dictionary, by John Bouvier, Revised Sixth Edition, 1856

Beneficiary — a person or entity that is legally entitled to receive benefits pursuant to some legal device, for example, an insurance policy, a trust or a will.

Capitis Diminutio Minima — John Michael Smith — The lowest or least comprehensive degree of loss of status. This occurred where a man’s family relations alone were changed. It happened upon the arrogation of a person who had been his own master, (sui juris,) or upon the emancipation of one who had been under the patria potestas. It left the rights of liberty and citizenship.

Capitis Diminutio Media — John Michael SMITH — A lesser or medium loss of status. This occurred where a man lost his rights of citizenship, but without losing his liberty. It carried away also the family rights. 

Capitis Diminutio Maxima — JOHN MICHAEL SMITH — The highest or most comprehensive loss of status. This occurred when a man’s condition was changed from one of freedom to one of bondage, when he became a slave. It swept away with it all rights of citizenship and all family rights. 

Capitis Diminutio Layman Explanation (

Creditor — someone (or an entity) to whom an obligation is owed.

De Facto, i. e. in deed. A term used to denote a thing actually done; a president of the United States de facto is one in the exercise of the executive power, and is distinguished from one, who being legally entitled to such power is ejected from it; the latter would be a president de jure. An officer de facto is frequently considered as an officer de jure, and his official acts are of equal validity. 10 S. & R. 250; 4 Binn. R. 371; 11 S. & R. 411, 414; Coxe, 318; 9 Mass. 231; 10 Mass. 290; 15 Mass. 180; 5 Pick. 487.

De Jure, Of right; legitimate; lawful ; by right and just title. In this sense it is the contrary of de facto, (which see.) It may also be contrasted with de gratia, in which case it means “as a matter of right,” as de gratia means “by grace or favor.” Again it may be contrasted with de wqui- tate; here meaning “by law,” as the latter means “by equity.” 

Executor — the person named in a will that manages and distributes the property of the person who has died.

Ignoramus — practice. We are ignorant. This word, which in law means we are uninformed, is written on a bill by a grand jury, when they find that there is not sufficient evidence to authorize their finding it a true bill. Sometimes, instead of using this word, the grand jury endorse on the bill, “Not found.” 4 Bl. Com. 305. Vide Grand Jury.

Indictment, between one American National against a legal fictional entity or person or corporation. crim. law, practice. A written accusation of one or more persons of a crime or misdemeanor, presented to, and preferred upon oath or affirmation, by a grand jury legally convoked. 4 Bl. Com. 299; Co. Litt. 126; 2 Hale, 152; Bac. Ab. h. t.; Com. Dig. h. t. A; 1 Chit. Cr. L. 168.

Malfeasance — The wrongful or unjust doing of some act which the doer has no right to perform, or which he has stipulated by contract not to do.

Presentment, Common Law; between one American National and another American National. crim. law, practice. The written notice taken by a grand jury of any offence, from their own knowledge or observation, without any bill of indictment laid before them at the suit of the government; 4 Bl. Com. 301; upon such presentment, when ‘proper, the officer emloyed to prosecute, afterwards frames a till of indictment, which is then sent to the grand jury, and they find it to be a true bill. In an extended sense presentments include not only what is properly so called, but also inquisitions of office, and indictments found by a grand jury. 2 Hawk. c. 25, s. 1. See Indictment.

PRO SE — For himself; in his own behalf; in person. To represent oneself in a legal proceeding. (different from Sui Juris)

Sui Juris — Of his own right; possessing full social and civil rights; not under any legal disability, or the power of another, or guardianship. Having capacity to manage one’s own affairs; not under legal disability to act for one’s self.  Ex: “john michael smith” – all lower case. (different from PRO SE)

Trespass — An unlawful intrusion that interferes with a man or woman’s body, or property or rights; a wrong committed against someone where remedy has not been given.

  • Abortion — The miscarriage or premature delivery of a woman who is quick with child. When this is brought about with a malicious design, or for an unlawful purpose, it is a crime in law.
  • Extortion — Any oppression by color or pretense of right, and particularly the exaction by an officer of money, by color of his office, either when none at all is due, or not so much is due. or when it is not yet due.
  • Harm — to damage, injure or hurt; specifically a man’s body or a woman’s body.
  • Loss — In insurance. The injury or damage sustained by the insured in consequence of the happening of one or more of the accidents or misfortunes against which the insurer, in consideration of the premium, has undertaken to indemnify the insured.
  • Murder — Where man or woman kills another man or woman, with malice aforethought, deliberately, without any warrant, justification or lawful excuse.
  • Robbery — Robbery is the felonious taking of personal property In the possession of another, from his person or immediate presence, and against his will, accomplished by means of force or fear.
  • Theft — An unlawful felonious taking away of another man’s movable and personal goods against the will of the owner.
  • Unlawful Detainment/Detention — Where a person is kept in custody against their will. Kidnapping. Wrongful imprisonment.

Wrong — An injury; (q. v.) a tort (q. v.) a violation of right. In its most usual sense, wrong signifies an injury committed to the person or property of another, or to his relative rights, unconnected with contract; and these wrongs are committed with or without force. But in a more extended signification, wrong includes the violation of a contract; a failure by a man to perform his undertaking or promise is a wrong or injury to him to whom it was made. 3 Bl. Com. 158.. (Bouvier)