Latin Forensic Terms

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Latin Forensic Terms

Many Latin terms are used in the field of forensic science because forensics developed alongside the already established legal profession, which extensively uses phrases from the Latin language. The word forensic, itself, comes from the Latin word forensis, meaning of the forum. It originally applied to the marketplace areas within ancient Rome where many types of businesses and public affairs, such as governmental debates and actions by courts of law, were conducted. Entering the English vocabulary in 1659, the modern meaning of forensic is now limited to the areas of legal and criminal investigations.

Some commonly used Latin terms within the field of forensic science are listed below. A translation of the Latin appears in parentheses.

  • Aberemurder (obsolete), willful murder
  • Abet (to bait), to encourage another to commit a crime
  • Ab extra (from outside), without
  • Actus reus (guilty by act), wrongful deed performed with criminal intent
  • Ad hominem (to the individual), relating to the preferences of a particular person
  • Amicus curiae (friend of the court), person who is allowed to submit a point of view or intervene in a court case
  • Compos mentis (of sound mind), legally responsible
  • Corpus delicti (the body of the crime) fundamental facts that prove a crime
  • De novo (new), trial that begins again without reference to previous trials
  • Fidei defensor (defender of the faith), description of leaders especially with regards to British royalty
  • Flagrante delicto (while the crime is blazing), caught in the act of a crime
  • Functus officio (having served its purpose), expiration of someone's authority due to completion of duty or expired date
  • Habeas corpus (that you have a body), writ issued to bring a party before a court or judge in order to release or continue to detain the party
  • In loco parentis (in place of the parent), legal responsibility of a party to take on parental responsibilities
  • Indicia (to point out), identifying marks or signs
  • In esse (in existence), being
  • In extenso (at full length), completely
  • In situ (in its place), in its original position
  • Medias res (the midst of things), middle of a series of events
  • Mens rea (guilty in mind), intent or knowledge of performing a criminal act
  • Modus operandi (method of operation ), abbreviated M.O., particular way by which crimes are committed
  • Obiter dictum (something said in passing), judge's observation on something not specifically before a court
  • Onus (the burden), responsibility of governmental body or plaintiff to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt
  • Postmortem (after death), autopsy performed after a person's death
  • Prima facie (at first sight), evidence that appears to be sufficient to establish proof
  • Pro se (on one's own behalf), person who presents their own case before a court without the use of lawyers
  • Res judicata (the thing has been judged), case before a court that has already been decided by another court
  • Ultra vires (without authority), outside the powers of legal authority.

In addition, many modern terms used commonly in forensic science have their roots in Latin. One such example is the word inquest, the term used for an inquiry into a death occurring under suspicious circumstances. The word comes from the Latin in, meaning into, and quaro, meaning to seek.

see also Forensic science; Method of operation (M.O.).

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Latin Forensic Terms

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