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Legal translation of documentation like contracts, court papers and witness statements to other languages is business critical, with no room for inaccuracy or errors.

By its very nature legal translation has many complexities and poses multiple challenges extending beyond overcoming than language barriers.

First of all, there’s the lingo. Most sectors are guilty of jargon. But law speak includes so much jargon it’s got its own description – legalese.

In addition to being practically a language in its own right, there’s also the curveball of Latin thrown in for good measure!

A prodigious legal translation must be on top of these intricate nuances.

We’re used to hearing and seeing some more of the more commonly recognised Latin legalese, such as –

  • Affidavit – literally meaning he pledged – which is interpreted in law as a sworn, written statement
  • Bona fide – literally meaning (in) good faith – which is interpreted in law as sincere, genuine
  • Habeas corpus – literally meaning may you have the body – which is interpreted in law as bring a person before a court
  • Pro bono – literally meaning for the good – which is interpreted in law as done for free for the public good
  • Sub poena – literally meaning under the penalty – which is interpreted in law as an order commanding a person to appear in court under

But, with some of the lesser-known phrases, literal meanings don’t always result in the legal translation you’d naturally expect, such as –

  • A mensa et toro – literally meaning from table and bed – which is interpreted in law as legal separation
  • Cui bono – literally meaning for whom the good – which is interpreted in law as whom does it benefit?
  • Flagrante delicto – literally meaning while the crime is burning – which is interpreted in law as red-handed, in the act
  • Mutatis mutandis – literally meaning having changed what must be changed – which is interpreted in law as after making the necessary changes
  • Obiter dictum – literally meaning something said in passing – which is interpreted in law as something a judge says in arguing a point, but has no bearing on the final decision

At Accutranslate, we’re used to handling legal translation jobs from English to other languages and other languages to English for businesses and high net worth individuals.

Why not get in touch to discuss for a chat about accurate, detailed and confidential legal translation to suit your specific needs?


Understanding Latin Legalese, Clifford A. Hull, Steven R. Perkins, Tracy L. Barr, Dummies