This article has been written by Bhavna Ganesar during her internship


A legal maxim may be a very concise expression more sort of a term of any fundamental rule or principle. The oxford dictionary of philosophy defines it as, “Generally any simple and memorable rule or guide for living.” The word maxim is taken from the Latin word ‘maxima’.
Most of the Latin Maxims originate from the medieval era in the European states where Latin was the language of preference for legal purposes.


To avoid the utilization of long definitions we call it in one single word or a term. The same goes for a legal maxim. For example, take a maxim ‘Ab Initio’ which means ‘from the beginning of’ or ‘from the start of something’, so instead of writing from the beginning. The attitudes of early English philosophers on the context of usage of legal maxims are of excessive praise. There are many various legal maxims that are used regularly on different judicial proceedings and other areas. Thus, we see that a legal maxim is one which elucidates a judicial principle , proposition or concept. There are many legal maxims which are commonly used.


  1. Actionable per se – The very act is punishable and no proof of damage is required.
  2. Assentio mentium – The meeting of minds, i.e. mutual assents.
  3. Pacta Sunt Servanda – Agreements must be kept or Agreements are legally binding.
    In International Agreements it means ‘every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.’
  4. Bona vacantia – Goods without an owner.
  5. Persona non grata – A person who is unacceptable or unwelcome.
    Opposite of persona non grata is persona grata.
    Also, in diplomacy, a persona non grata is a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country’s government.
  6. Ipso facto – By the mere fact.
  7. Actio personalis moritur cum persona – A personal right of action dies with the person. In other sense, if he dies the right to sue is gone.
  8. Actus Reus Non Facit Reum Nisi Mens Sit Rea – Conviction of a crime requires proof of a criminal act and intent. or an act does not make a defendant guilty without a guilty mind. or an act does not constitute guilt unless done with a guilty intention.
  9. Jus cogens or ius cogens – Compelling law.
  10. Pari passu – With an equal step.
  11. Non Sequitur – A statement (such as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said.
  12. Uberrima fides (sometimes uberrimae fidei) – Utmost good faith.
  13. Vox populi – Voice of the people. or The opinion of the majority of the people.
  14. Corpus delicti – The facts and circumstances constituting a crime and Concrete evidence of a crime, such as a corpse (dead body).Also, it refers to the principle that ‘a crime must be proved to have occurred before a person can be convicted of committing that crime.’ (This definition is mostly used in Western Law.)
  15. De Minimis Non Curat Lex – The law does not govern trifles (unimportant things) or law ignores insignificant details.Or, A common law principle whereby judges will not sit in judgment of extremely minor transgressions (offence, wrongdoings) of the law.
  16. Ex post facto – Out of the aftermath, or after the fact.
  17. Volenti non fit injuria – Damage suffered by consent gives no cause of action.In other words, If someone willingly places himself in a position where he knows that harm might result, then he is not able (allowed) to bring a claim against the other party in tort or delict (a violation of the law).
  18. Ubi jus ibi remedium – Where there is a right, there is a remedy.
  19. Qui facit per alium, facit per se – He who acts through another acts himself. In simple words, It is a fundamental legal maxim of the law of agency. It is a maxim often stated in discussing the liability of the employer for the act of employee in terms of vicarious (indirect, secondhand) liability.
  20. Jus naturale – Natural law, Or in other words, A system of law based on fundamental ideas of right and wrong that is Natural Law.
  21. Malum in se or Mala in se (plural) – Wrong or evil in itself. Or, Mala in se is ‘A term that signifies crime that is considered wrong in and of itself.’
  22. Per curiam (decision or opinion) – By the court. In other words, The decision is made by the court (or at least, a majority of the court) acting collectively.
  23. Obiter dictum – Things said by the way. It is generally used in law to refer to an opinion or non-necessary remark made by a judge. It does not act as a precedent. In other words, Obiter dictum means “that which is said in passing,” an incidental statement. Specifically, in law, it refers to a passage in a judicial opinion which is not necessary for the decision of the case before the court. Such statements lack the force of precedent but may nevertheless be significant.
  24. Ratio decidendi – Principle or reason underlying a court judgment. or The rule of law on which a judicial decision is based.
  25. Actori incumbit onus probandi – The burden of proof is on the plaintiff.
  26. Injuria sine damno – Injury without damage.
  27. Ignorantia juris non excusat – Ignorance of the law excuses not or Ignorance of the law excuses no one. In other words, A person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because one was unaware of its content.
  28. Caveat emptor – Let the buyer beware.
  29. Habeas corpus – A writ to have the body of a person to be brought in before the judge.
  30. Nemo moriturus praesumitur mentire – A man will not meet his maker (God) with a lie in his mouth or in other words ‘No man at the point of death is presumed to lie.’ (This maxim is related to dying declaration.)