: a charge upon real or personal property for the satisfaction of some debt or duty ordinarily arising by operation of law
The bank had a lien on our house.
: the security interest created by a mortgage
the lien of a mortgage

Examples of lien in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Editors’ Picks In West Virginia, the tax authorities have placed liens on Greenbrier properties for millions in unpaid taxes, only months after auctioning off tax-delinquent properties owned by the governor elsewhere in the state. Maureen Farrell, New York Times, 12 May 2024 It has been given the omnipotent, totalitarian power to simply seize the money through garnishments, liens, attachments, and other non-judicial means. Jacob Hornberger, Orange County Register, 12 May 2024 With this time, plaintiffs have a straightforward mechanism to allocate recoveries amongst themselves, negotiate lien and public benefit issues, and negotiate advantageous tax treatment. Tyler Shepherd, USA TODAY, 10 May 2024 Under the law, metro districts can still file liens on a property to attempt to recoup unpaid fees or fines. The Denver Post Editorial Board, The Denver Post, 3 May 2024 Garvey has been named in several state and federal tax liens, according to a search of public records and credit headers, part of a credit report that usually gives someone’s name and other identifying information. David Lightman, Sacramento Bee, 23 Mar. 2024 But claiming superior lien rights is inappropriate to this motion. Linda Robertson, Miami Herald, 22 Mar. 2024 Any attempt to collect would be done through such legal actions as liens and foreclosures. Michael R. Sisak, Fortune, 20 Mar. 2024 In many countries, a notary will manage the sale, often for both parties, including overseeing the contracts and checking for liens. Gabe Bullard, Washington Post, 13 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lien.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Anglo-French lien, loyen bond, restraint, from Latin ligamen, from ligare to bind — more at ligature

First Known Use

1531, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of lien was in 1531

Dictionary Entries Near lien

Cite this Entry

“Lien.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lien. Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a legal claim on the property of another person until he or she has met a certain obligation (as a debt)

Medical Definition


: spleen
lienal adjective

Legal Definition


: a charge or encumbrance upon property for the satisfaction of a debt or other duty that is created by agreement of the parties or especially by operation of law
specifically : a security interest created especially by a mortgage
assessment lien
: a lien that is on property benefiting from an improvement made by a municipality and that secures payment of the taxes assessed to pay for the improvement
attachment lien
: a lien acquired on property by a creditor upon levy of an attachment
carrier's lien
: a lien against freight conferring on the carrier the right to retain the property until the amount due is paid
charging lien
: a lien attaching to a judgment or recovery awarded to a plaintiff and securing payment of the plaintiff's attorney's fees and expenses

called also special lien

choate lien
: a lien that requires no further action to be made enforceable and that identifies the lienor, the property subject to the lien, and the amount of the lien
common-law lien
: a lien under common law giving a creditor (as a bailee) in possession of property the right to retain possession until payment of the amount due
equitable lien
: a lien against property that does not require possession of the property and that is available in equity to prevent unjust enrichment
factor's lien
: a lien against property held on consignment by a factor conferring the right to retain possession of the property until payment of the amount due

Note: A factor's lien is simply a security interest and, unlike a common-law lien, is enforceable even after the factor is no longer in possession of the property.

first lien
: a lien taking precedence over all other claims, charges, or encumbrances of the same general category but not necessarily over those (as taxes) imposed by government sanction
floating lien
: a lien created in a security agreement against property owned by the debtor at the time of the agreement's creation as well as property acquired after the agreement's creation
general lien
: a lien that is for the satisfaction of a balance due from an owner of property and that is not confined to the amount due in respect to the property itself
: retaining lien in this entry
inchoate lien
: a lien for which some procedure remains unfinished or some term remains undetermined
involuntary lien
: a lien that arises other than by the debtor's consent (as by operation of law)
judgment lien
: a lien acquired against the property of a debtor by a creditor upon obtaining a favorable judgment
judicial lien
: a lien obtained by a legal or equitable process (as judgment, levy, attachment, or execution)
junior lien
: a lien that is lower in priority relative to other liens
landlord's lien
: a lien against the goods and valuables of a tenant to secure payment of rent or sometimes repayment of money otherwise owed to a landlord
maritime lien
: a lien arising under maritime law against a ship or its cargo (as for services or supplies tendered or for damages caused by a collision) which may be enforced by a court-ordered seizure of the property in order to satisfy the obligation
materialman's lien \ mə-​ˈtir-​ē-​əl-​mənz-​ \
: a lien on property for materials supplied
mechanic's lien
: a lien against a building and its site to assure priority of payment for labor or services (as construction and sometimes design) or material
retaining lien
: a lien that attaches to the papers or property of a client which have come into his or her attorney's possession in the course of employment and that secures payment of the attorney's fees

called also general lien

senior lien
: a lien that is higher in priority relative to other liens
special lien
: an equitable lien enforceable to compel performance of an obligation (as under a divorce settlement)
: charging lien in this entry
specific lien
: a lien upon specific property as security for the payment of a debt or the satisfaction of some other obligation arising out of a transaction or agreement involving that property compare general lien in this entry
statutory lien
: a lien imposed by statute
tax lien
: a statutory lien on property for taxes due giving the taxing authority a security interest in the property compare tax sale at sale
vendor's lien
: a lien on especially real property securing payment in full of the purchase price by the buyer
voluntary lien
: a lien created (as by contract) with the consent of the debtor

Anglo-French, bond, obligation, literally, tie, band, from Old French, from Latin ligamen, from ligare to bind

More from Merriam-Webster on lien

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