Legal doublet

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A legal doublet is a standardized phrase used frequently in English legal language consisting of two or more words that are near synonyms, usually connected by "and", and in standard orders, such as "cease and desist".

The doubling—and sometimes even tripling—often originates in the transition from use of one language for legal purposes to another: in Britain, from a native English term to a Latin or Law French term; in Romance-speaking countries, from Latin to the vernacular. To ensure understanding, the terms from both languages were used. This reflected the interactions between Germanic and Roman law following the decline of the Roman Empire. These phrases are often pleonasms[1] and form irreversible binomials. It would be particularly unusual to ask someone to "desist and cease" or to have property be owned "clear and free"; these common legal phrases are universally known as "cease and desist" and "free and clear".

In other cases, the two components have differences which are subtle, appreciable only to lawyers, or obsolete. For example, ways and means, referring to methods and resources respectively,[2] are differentiable, in the same way that tools and materials, or equipment and funds, are differentiable—but the difference between them is often practically irrelevant to the contexts in which the irreversible binomial ways and means is used today in non-legal contexts as a mere cliché.

Doublets may also have arisen or persisted because the solicitors and clerks who drew up conveyances and other documents were paid by the word, which tended to encourage verbosity.[3]

Their habitual use has been decried by some legal scholars as superfluous in modern legal briefs.[1]

List of common legal doublets[edit]

List of common legal triplets[edit]

  • arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable
  • cancel, annul and set aside[1]
  • convey, transfer and set over[1]
  • give, devise and bequeath[1]
  • grant, bargain, sell[1]
  • name, constitute and appoint[1]
  • null, void and of no effect
  • ordered, adjudged and decreed[4]
  • remise, release and forever quit claim[1]
  • rest, residue and remainder[1]
  • right, title and interest[1]
  • signed, sealed, and delivered[4]
  • way, shape or form

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an Espenschied, Lenné Eidson (2010). "10.1 Eliminate clutter and redundant language § Eliminate common doublets and triplets". Contract Drafting: Powerful Prose in Transactional Practice. ABA Fundamentals. Chicago: American Bar Association. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-1-60442-795-0. LCCN 2010003298. OCLC 505017586. OL 15443452W.
  2. ^ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, archived from the original on 2015-09-25, retrieved 2018-02-02.
  3. ^ English, Barbara; Saville, John (1983). Strict Settlement: a guide for historians. Hull: University of Hull Press. pp. 18–19. ISBN 0-85958-439-9.
  4. ^ a b c Ingels, Mia B. (2006). " Doublets and triplets". Legal English Communication Skills. Learning English. Leuven, Belgium: Academische Coöperatieve Vennootschap. pp. 60–61. ISBN 90-334-6112-9. OCLC 150389897.
  5. ^ "Doublets". TransLegal. 12 January 2010. Archived from the original on 2013-09-08.
  6. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (2011). Garner's Dictionary of Legal Usage. Rev. ed. of: A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 577. ISBN 978-0-19-538420-8. LCCN 2011004242. OCLC 671709669. OL 24973858M.
  7. ^ Word Pairs