le·​gal·​ese | \ˌlē-gə-ˈlēz, -ˈlēs \

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

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 Other news networks started sending messages asking for permission to use my videos, somehow expecting me to read and agree to legalese while cars floated by. Libby Solomon, Howard County Times, "'Wanna go on the clock?': In Ellicott City, reporting on a disaster in my own backyard," 11 June 2018 The law requires that the terms and conditions be written in plain, understandable language, not legalese. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "What Europe’s Tough New Data Law Means for You, and the Internet," 6 May 2018 Due process materials used by U.S. schools are often written in dense legalese requiring college level schooling to understand. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "Are too many minority students identified as disabled? Or are some who need services overlooked?," 4 May 2018 Instead of whiskey, we’d be fueled by a cocktail of righteousness and florid legalese. Chris Colin, Outside Online, "Drawing a Line in the Sand Over River Rights," 30 May 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.

See More

First Known Use of legalese

1911, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about legalese

Statistics for legalese

Last Updated

17 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for legalese

The first known use of legalese was in 1911

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for legalese



English Language Learners Definition of legalese

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


le·​gal·​ese | \ˌlē-gə-ˈlēz, -ˈlēs \

Legal Definition of legalese 

: the specialized language of the legal profession

More from Merriam-Webster on legalese

See words that rhyme with legalese

Comments on legalese

What made you want to look up legalese? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a trusted follower

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!