mens rea


ˈmenz-ˈrē-ə How to pronounce mens rea (audio)
: criminal intent

Examples of mens rea in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Criminal law has the concept of mens rea, guilty mind. Sean Carroll, Discover Magazine, 13 July 2011 Imagine applying mens rea to the bloodiest tyrants of modern history. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 22 June 2022 Conservative jurisprudence tends to favor mens rea requirements for businesspeople charged with crimes. Maia Szalavitz, Scientific American, 25 Feb. 2022 In the law, this is the highest mens rea proof requirement. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 18 Aug. 2020 ANONYMOUS Wrongdoing generally requires two elements: a guilty act, actus reus, and a guilty mind, mens rea. Philip Galanes, New York Times, 19 Apr. 2018 Most significantly, the government contends that Lee had the necessary mens rea — the criminal-intent element — to commit the felony retention offense. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 17 Jan. 2018 Reimer said when asked about concerns that mens rea reform would help companies evade regulatory charges. Matt Ford, The Atlantic, 26 Oct. 2017 This time mens rea reform proponents have gone out of their way to enlist the support of left-leaning criminal-defense attorneys. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, 26 Oct. 2017 See More

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

Word History


New Latin, literally, guilty mind

First Known Use

1861, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mens rea was in 1861

Dictionary Entries Near mens rea

Cite this Entry

“Mens rea.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Legal Definition

plural mentes reae
ˈmen-ˌtēz-ˈrē-ˌē, ˈmen-ˌtās-ˈrā-ˌī
: a culpable mental state
especially : one involving intent or knowledge and forming an element of a criminal offense
murder contains a mens rea element
compare actus reus

New Latin, literally, guilty mind

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