Legal Doublets: Why Legal Terms Seem Repetitive


Part of a lawyer’s job as counselor to the client includes the role of translator. No, this does not mean that an attorney’s qualifications necessarily include multilingual ability. However, a significant portion of legal practice involves “translating” documents that are dripping with convoluted language strewn together in a seemingly unending chain of what is known as “legalese.” This is particularly true in the real estate law practice because American real property law derives from terms that England used when it was a feudal state.

By way of historical background, when Britain was populated by a race of Germanic people known as the Angles, everyone spoke a Germanic language. However, after the Norman conquest of England, the conquerors imposed a French-Latin form of language on the British Isles. The conquest occurred around the same time England began to develop what would later evolve into the English common law judicial system.

As a result of the Norman conquest of England, legal writings typically contained a word in the conqueror’s French-Latin based tongue which was paired with its linguistic counterpart in the Germanic language of the conquered Angles. Known as “legal doublets,” this practice ensured that people – whether they were an Angle or a Norman – would clearly understand their legal obligations. However, as the English language and culture evolved beyond any clear distinction between its Anglican and Norman roots, the use of legal doublets persisted in English practice of law.

Today, remnants of this fascinating practice can be found in American legal practice as well. That is because the United States derives its judicial system from the English common law. The words paired together in a legal doublet are as synonymous as any pair of words can get.

Examples of legal doublets still used today include:

  • Aid and abet
  • Breaking and entering
  • Cease and desist
  • Due and payable
  • Free and clear
  • Goods and chattels
  • Heirs and successors
  • Indemnify and hold harmless
  • Liens and encumbrances
  • Null and void
  • Part and parcel
  • Sole and exclusive
  • Terms and conditions
  • Will and testament

Need Serious California Real Estate Attorneys?

If you need help with a real estate matter, whether it is a dispute with your Home Owner’s Association regarding compliance with its conditions, covenants, and restrictions, or an issue with your neighbor regarding rights under an easement, you should enlist the professional services of an experienced California real estate attorney. At Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP, we have the sophisticated understanding of California real estate laws to help preserve and protect your legal rights to exclusively possess and quietly enjoy the land you own as a private citizen. Over the years, our legal team has been recognized and awarded for our achievements and successful results.

Please call us at (888) 998-2031 or contact us online to schedule a complimentary case evaluation with an experienced eminent domain lawyer in California.