possession is nine points of the law

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possession is nine points of the law proverbial saying, early 17th century. Although it does not reflect any specific legal ruling, in early use the satisfaction of ten (sometimes twelve) points was commonly asserted to attest to full entitlement or ownership; possession, represented by nine (or eleven) points is therefore the closest substitute for this. The same idea is found a little earlier, in the late 16th-century play Edward III (1595), ‘'Tis you are in possession of the Crown, And that's the surest point of all the law.’