le·​gal·​ese | \ ˌlē-gə-ˈlēz How to pronounce legalese (audio) , -ˈlēs How to pronounce legalese (audio) \

Definition of legalese

: the specialized language of the legal profession replaced legalese with plain talk— Steve Weinberg

Examples of legalese in a Sentence

I was confused by the legalese in the contract.

Recent Examples on the Web

But the forms patients must sign have also turned nightmarish, not unlike the dense legalese of many financial, leasing and other user agreements meant to be signed pro forma but not really to be read and understood. WSJ, "Myriad Paper Forms Litter Bold ‘Paperless’ EHR World," 21 Mar. 2019 Dry legalese and generic aliases could do nothing to tone down the tale of the scheme to protect Trump outlined in court documents Tuesday. Eric Tucker, The Seattle Times, "Inside catch and kill: Cohen, a porn star and ‘Individual 1’," 21 Aug. 2018 As if the act of getting divorced isn't stressful enough, there's the issue of trying to internalize what feels like an entirely new language of legalese that's unavoidable during the process. Jennifer Lance, Glamour, "Your Divorce Glossary: A-to-Z Terms You Need to Know," 26 Nov. 2018 With a tweet, Musk set off a chain of events for a potential transaction that would typically entail pages and pages of documentation and legalese. Emily Stewart, Vox, "Elon Musk’s (probably serious) proposal to take Tesla private and the fallout, explained," 18 Aug. 2018 Fred Trump, then 85, had never before set eyes on the document, 12 pages of dense legalese. Susanne Craig, The Seattle Times, "Trump engaged in suspect tax schemes as he reaped riches from father," 2 Oct. 2018 This was an extremely long opinion that was full of legalese and short on practical understanding of the impact of unlimited money on political campaigns. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "The ‘cloistered’ Harvard-Yale law monopoly on the Supreme Court," 10 July 2018 The website is a rare instance of the SEC, an agency whose communication is often steeped in legalese, using the web—and a sense of humor—to warn about risks in a way that could go viral. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "SEC Shows Investors What a Cryptocurrency Scam Looks Like," 16 May 2018 Somewhere between the legalese and accusations and motivations and maybe cover-ups lies what’s fair, even if that’s still impossible to pinpoint. Mike Anthony,, "Mike Anthony: UConn's Case Against Kevin Ollie Firm By Contract Terms, Flimsy By Common Sense," 21 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'legalese.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of legalese

1911, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for legalese

Last Updated

5 May 2019

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Time Traveler for legalese

The first known use of legalese was in 1911

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English Language Learners Definition of legalese

informal : the language used by lawyers that is difficult for most people to understand : legal jargon


le·​gal·​ese | \ ˌlē-gə-ˈlēz, -ˈlēs How to pronounce legalese (audio) \

Legal Definition of legalese

: the specialized language of the legal profession

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