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Semble is an Old French word[1] and may be translated as "It seems or appears to be"[1] or, more simply, "it seems".[2][3]


The expression is used in law and indicates that the point to which it refers is undecided or doubtful.[1][2] In a law report, the expression precedes a proposition of law which is an obiter dictum by the judge, or a suggestion by the reporter.[3]

For example, in the All England Law Reports headnote for Hedley Byrne v Heller & Partners [1963] 2 All ER 575 (HL) the reporter (at 576 E-F) uses the expression when summarising certain remarks of Lords Reid, Morris, and Hodson on a point which did not arise for decision in the case; semble indicates that this may be the law but it falls to a future case to decide authoritatively.[2]

In Simpkins v Pays [1955],[4] Sellers J, having made an award to the plaintiff, suggested "semble" that a similar award was due to a person (the defendant's granddaughter) who was not party to the action.


  1. ^ a b c Mann, Trischa, ed. (2010), "semble", Australian Law Dictionary. e-reference edition. (Oxford University Press. Oxford Reference Online), ISBN 978-0-19-969144-9 
  2. ^ a b c Jonathan Law and Elizabeth A. Martin, ed. (2009), "semble", A Dictionary of Law. (7th (print version) © Market House Books Ltd ed.) (Oxford University Press. Oxford Reference Online.), ISBN 978-0-19-955124-8 
  3. ^ a b Harvey Cortlandt Voorhees (1911) Concise Law Dicitionary (revised edition; original compiled by Frederic Jesup Stimson) Little, Brown and Company, Boston at 311
  4. ^ 'Simpkins v Pays' [1955] 1 WLR 975 Queen's Bench Division