noun \ˈlēn, ˈlē-ən\
Updated on: 26 Jul 2017

Definition of lien

  1. 1 :  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.

  2. 2 :  the security interest created by a mortgage the lien of a mortgage

Recent Examples of lien from the Web

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Origin and Etymology of lien

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

Financial Definition of LIEN


What It Is

A judgment lien allows a creditor to take possession of a piece of a debtor's property if the debtor does not pay his or her debts.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe owns a pit bull breeding company that borrows $1 million from Bank XYZ. Sales aren't going so well, and John falls behind in the payments to Bank XYZ. Bank XYZ obtains a judgment lien, which allows it to seize his house, car and any other assets necessary to get the $987,465 outstanding balance repaid in full if John does not start making regular payments again. If John does not comply, Bank XYZ simply repossesses and sells the assets.

Judgment liens are also common in cases where a person's insurance doesn't cover the full amount of a judgment resulting from damages in a car accident or other situation.

There are different kinds of judgments. A default judgment, for example, occurs in favor of the plaintiff when the defendant fails to appear in court to defend himself or does not respond to a summons. A deficiency judgment occurs when the sale of a seized piece of property does not generate enough cash to pay the judgment and the court has to place a lien on more property.

Why It Matters

The laws on judgment liens vary by state and by jurisdiction. However, the intent of most judgment liens is to compel the borrower to repay the creditor.

LIEN Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of lien for English Language Learners

  • law : a legal claim that someone or something has on the property of another person until a debt has been paid back

Medical Dictionary


noun li·en \ˈlī-ən, ˈlī-ˌen\

Medical Definition of lien

  1. :  spleen


\-əl\play adjective

Law Dictionary


noun \ˈlēn\

Legal Definition of lien

  1. 1 :  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 Editor's 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 1 :  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 2 :  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 1 :  an equitable lien enforceable to compel performance of an obligation (as under a divorce settlement) 2 :  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

Origin and Etymology of lien

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

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to fight against or to call in question

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