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For Dictionary Day, 7 More Words Only Federal Judges Use

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on October 16, 2014 11:51 AM

In honor of National Dictionary Day, we're pleased to offer a sequel to last year's post about words only federal judges use. These are words that you'd be hard pressed to find outside judicial opinions or the legal environment -- because, for some reason, lawyers like using archaic and complex language.

1. Pellucid.

Sounds like: Lucid, but with some pells before it (whatever those are).

Made cool by: Fellow blogger William Peacock's favorite judge, Bruce Selya of the First Circuit, describing how crystal-clear a trial court judge was when explaining to a defendant that he was waiving a right to appeal as part of his plea agreement.

It means: "Admitting light without diffusion or distortion."

Synonym: Clear.

2. Procrustean.

Sounds like: Related to lobsters or stale bread.

Made cool by: Chief Justice William Rehnquist, describing the Fourth Amendment's lack of such an approach to reasonableness. Before that, ancient Greeks.

It means: "Marked by arbitrary, often ruthless, disregard of individual differences or special circumstances." Procrustes is a figure from Greek mythology who invited travelers to stay in his house, but the bed was only one size. Procrustes would stretch travelers who were too short and cut the limbs off travelers who were too tall to make them fit. Procrustes was punished by the hero Theseus, by being stretched, fitted, and nailed to his own bed.

Synonym: One-size-fits-all.

3. Hypertrophy.

Sounds like: One too many trophies.

Made cool by: Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit, describing the Bluebook in a Yale Law Review article.

It means: "Excessive development of an organ or part."

Synonym: Overgrowth.

4. Credulous.

Sounds like: Credible.

Made cool by: Justice Antonin Scalia, describing how silly Maryland's DNA testing law is. You know what court he's from.

It means: "Easily fooled or cheated." So, the opposite of what you might think. (See also: restive.)

Synonym: Unsuspecting.

5. Sui Generis.

Sounds like: A spa treatment. Or maybe Thai food.

Made cool by: Lots of people, saying that something is "sui generis." If they're using this word, then they're trying to sound smart, because there's an English word that means the same thing (see below).

It means: "In a class or group of its own; not like anything else."

Synonym: One-of-a-kind. (Was that so hard?)

6. Sine Qua Non.

Sounds like: Irish flatbread.

Made cool by: Again, lots of people, who claim that something is the "sine qua non" of something else. As in, "eggs are the sine qua non of an omelet."

It means: "Something that is absolutely needed."

Synonym: Essential.

7. Noodge.

Sounds like: That thing your older brother did to your head. Also a nickname for Ted Nugent.

Made cool by: Scalia, again!

It means: "One who pesters and annoys with persistent complaining." It's Yiddish (though in English, it's also spelled "nudzh"). Scalia used it in a dissenting opinion to describe Socrates.

Synonym: Complainer; "Debbie Downer."

Have you seen judges using any out-of-place words lately? Let us know via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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