bail·​ment ˈbāl-mənt How to pronounce bailment (audio)
: the act of bailing a person or personal property

Word History

First Known Use

1554, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of bailment was in 1554

Dictionary Entries Near bailment

Cite this Entry

“Bailment.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2024.

Legal Definition


bail·​ment ˈbāl-mənt How to pronounce bailment (audio)
: the transfer of possession but not ownership of personal property (as goods) for a limited time or specified purpose (as transportation) such that the individual or business entity taking possession is liable to some extent for loss or damage to the property compare deposit, loan for consumption and loan for use at loan

Note: The typical elements of a bailment are delivery of the personal property, acceptance of the delivery, and possession or control of the property. Any of these elements may be actual or constructive. Bailments may be created by contracts, either express or implied, which require agreement, and the agreement may also be express or implied. Contracts for the lease of a car, for sale of goods on consignment, and for the transport of goods are examples of bailments.

bailment for hire
: a bailment that either benefits both parties or only the bailee
especially : one in which the bailee receives compensation

called also bailment for mutual benefit, compensated bailment

constructive bailment
: a bailment imposed by law when the bailee comes into possession of the property by accident or mistake (as by finding it or receiving a mistaken delivery)

called also involuntary bailment

gratuitous bailment
: a bailment in which there is no compensation or benefit to one party
especially : one that benefits only the bailor compare commodatum
involuntary bailment
: constructive bailment in this entry

Anglo-French bayllment, from bailler to hand over see bail

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