: 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 Furthermore, at the start of that shutdown, the roughly 12 percent of IRS employees who remained on the job couldn’t answer taxpayer phone calls, issue tax refunds, release liens and levies or complete a bevy of other taxpayer services, the service reported. Jacob Bogage, Washington Post, 26 Sep. 2023 Woodward and Liam are some of the many who face eviction because of a lien system that is still in flux. Ben Brasch, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Aug. 2023 In addition to failing to provide low-income patients with free or lower-cost care, some of the health systems ruthlessly sought payment, sending patients to collection agencies, placing liens on their property, and garnishing wages. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 19 Oct. 2023 The city puts a lien on the homes for anywhere from 5 to 15 years if more than $15,000 was spent to either fix or reconstruct it. Haeven Gibbons, Dallas News, 19 Sep. 2023 In Maryland and Wisconsin, for instance, workers are allowed to place a lien on their employers’ personal property to secure the payment of back wages. Marcus Baram, ProPublica, 21 Aug. 2023 The ruling has potentially far-reaching implications in Massachusetts for municipalities and the private companies that sometimes purchase their tax liens. Sean P. Murphy, BostonGlobe.com, 31 May 2023 Homeowners who sell their houses within three years, or refinance their mortgage to take cash out from the equity, would be required to repay the assistance in order to remove the lien. Anjeanette Damon, ProPublica, 30 Aug. 2023 Legal And Financial Complications Distressed properties often come with a string of legal and financial issues, such as unpaid taxes, liens or complicated ownership history. Stephen Nalley, Forbes, 17 July 2023 See More

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 4 Dec. 2023.

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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