These are Latin terms lawyers inadvertently use everyday and every other day. You’d be surprised at their simple meanings but you’ll be glad you know them thenceforth. And of course they can be and are used in colloquial parlance too.

1. Sui Generis –  this simply translates ‘in a class of its own’. This could mean something unique or something that cannot be compared to other things. For example, sui generis works like Achebe’s Things Fall Apart…

2. In pari materia – translates ‘of the same matter’, ‘on the same subject’. For example, statutes in pari materia must be construed in light of each other.

3. Status quo antebellum– simply means ‘the initial state of things’ . For example, the recission of a contract restores the parties to status quo antebellum. ‘Let’s end this relationship and let each person go back to status quo antebellum!’

4. Res Ipsa Loquitor– The matter speaks for itself. The thing speaks for itself. For example, a dead cockroach in a bottled drink speaks of overt negligence on the part of the bottler. It can also be used as an interjection to express or lend credence to an obvious fact. For instance, ‘Are you now saying that had she not been DUI, she would not have hit the girl?’ ‘Res ipsa loquitor! ‘

5. Suo motu– Of its own accord, on its own motion. For example, the court will not suo motu grant a stay of execution unless the defendant asks for it. I will not suo motu pay her transport fare if she doesn’t ask me to.

6. Uberrima fides- Means ‘Utmost good faith’. For example, parties to an insurance contract muat show uberrima fides at all times; directors of a company must show uberrima fides in the discharge of their duties.

7. Contra bonus mores – translates ‘against good morals’ or ‘harmful to the moral welfare of the society’. For instance, a contract to induce someone to commit a  crime is contra bonus mores. Keeping a brothel is contra bonus mores.

8. Sine qua non– means ‘an indispensable condition’, that which is necessary without which something is impossible. For instance, passing law school exams is sine qua non to being called to the bar. The sun is a sine qua non for generating solar power.

9. Ab initio– Means ‘initially’, ‘from the beginning’. For example, a contract to do something unlawful or illegal is void ab initio.

10. Locus Standi– this is the right of a party or person to appear and be heard before a court. In colloquial parlance, it could be used as right of a person to speak in a gathering or platform and be heeded.
That’s about it for now. Make sure to use these terms too every now and then. Latin may be a dead language but certainly not for lawyers. And thenceforth, not for you.


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