Decoding the Legalese: A Comprehensive Glossary of Commonly Used Phrases in Contract Law

Contracts are the lifeblood of any business. This is why it is so important to understand common contract law terms and what they mean. Knowing these terms will help you create stronger contracts that stand up in court if needed. In this article, we’ll cover 50 common legal terminologies related to contract law that you should know about when you’re entering into a contract.

  1. Agreement

An agreement is any understanding or arrangement reached between two or more people, parties, businesses, or other entities. An agreement can be written on paper or verbally agreed upon and legally binding in most cases.

  1. Offer

An offer is an expression made by one party to another, inviting the other party to come into a contract on specific terms. It must be made with an intent to create legal relations and be communicated in such a way that it can be accepted by the other party.

  1. Acceptance

Acceptance is the unconditional agreement of one of the parties involved in a contract to all the terms outlined in an offer. Unless otherwise specified, acceptance must be communicated in the same way as the offer was made in order to form a valid agreement.

  1. Consideration

Consideration is something of value that each party gives to the other party during an agreement. It can be money, goods, services, or any other type of benefit that helps to make an agreement legally binding.

  1. Breach of Contract

A breach of contract occurs when any of the contractual terms are not fulfilled by one or both parties involved in an agreement. This could be due to a failure to perform, deliver goods on time, pay for services rendered, or fulfill any other responsibility as outlined in the contract.

  1. Liquidated Damages

Liquidated damages are a predetermined amount of money that is agreed upon by both parties prior to signing a contract. In the event one party breaches the terms of the agreement, the other party can request payment of liquidated damages as compensation.

  1. Waiver

A waiver is an intentional relinquishment or surrender of a known right or privilege, usually in writing. Waiver of a contractual right must be done voluntarily and with full knowledge of the consequences.

  1. Implied Contract

An implied contract is an agreement that is not written or spoken, but it can still be legally binding if certain conditions are met. Such contracts are based on the parties’ behavior and the circumstances surrounding their relationship.

  1. Duress

Duress is the use of threats or other forms of coercion to pressure a person into entering into an agreement they would not otherwise enter into. It is illegal and any contract signed under such conditions can be voided.

  1. Unconscionable Contract

An unconscionable contract is an agreement that is so unfair to one of the parties involved that it should not be enforced by a court. It could involve gross inequality in bargaining power or excessive benefits for one party while taking advantage of the other’s lack of knowledge.

  1. Indemnification

Indemnification is a contractual clause that requires one person or business to reimburse another for any losses incurred due to their own negligence or willful misconduct. It is usually a way to limit liability for one of the parties involved in an agreement.

  1. Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is a legal time limit on when a lawsuit must be filed in order for it to be considered valid. This varies from state to state and depends on the type of claim being made.

  1. Arbitration

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution where an independent third party (arbitrator) makes a decision on the dispute after hearing both sides’ arguments and evidence. The decision the arbitrator renders is binding on both parties, but it can be appealed in certain cases.

  1. Mediation

Mediation is another form of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third party (mediator) helps two or more parties involved in a dispute come to an agreement without needing to go to court. The mediator does not make any decisions, but rather facilitates the negotiation by helping both sides come to a mutually agreed-upon solution.

  1. Executory Contract

An executory contract is an agreement between two or more parties that one or both have not yet performed their obligations under the agreement. This type of contract can be terminated before any of its terms are fulfilled as long as all parties agree to do so.

  1. Maturity Date

A maturity date is the date on which all of the obligations under a contract are due to be fulfilled. It is usually specified in an agreement and both parties must adhere to it in order for the contract to remain valid.

  1. Joint Venture

A joint venture is a business arrangement between two or more entities where each party agrees to share resources, costs, risks, and profits. It is often formed to pursue a specific project or venture that will benefit all the participating parties.

  1. Unilateral Contract

A unilateral contract is an agreement where only one party (the offeror) makes a promise to do something in exchange for another’s performance of some act. The other party (the offeree) is under no obligation to perform the act, but if they do, then the offeror is legally obliged to fulfill their part of the agreement.

  1. Frustration of Contract

Frustration of contract occurs when an unforeseeable event makes it impossible for one or both parties involved in a contract to perform their obligations under the agreement. This can render a contract void or voidable, depending on the circumstances.

  1. Novation

Novation is a contractual agreement that transfers all of one party’s rights and obligations under an existing contract to another person or entity. This often happens when one of the parties involved in a contract needs to be replaced by another (e.g., due to bankruptcy).

  1. Third-Party Beneficiary

A third-party beneficiary is someone who is not a party to the contract, but benefits from some of its provisions. Such a beneficiary can have certain legal rights under the contract, such as being able to sue one of the parties for failing to fulfill their obligations.

  1. Assumption of Risk

Assumption of risk is a contractual clause whereby one party agrees to take on any risks associated with a particular activity. This could be physical risks (e.g., in sports or adventure activities) or financial risks (e.g., if investing in stocks).

  1. Subrogation

Subrogation is a legal principle whereby one party takes on the rights and obligations of another, usually after an insurance claim has been made. It allows insurers to recoup any payments they have made to a policyholder by pursuing the liable party directly.

  1. Estoppel

Estoppel is a legal doctrine that states that one party cannot deny the truth of something that was previously stated and relied upon by another, even if it turns out not to be true. This principle applies in both contract law and other areas of law.

  1. Forum Shopping

Forum shopping is the practice of selecting a court or other forum to decide a dispute based on factors such as its reputation, the applicable laws, and/or its likelihood of favoring one side over the other. It is generally considered unethical and frowned upon by courts.

  1. Accord and Satisfaction

Accord and satisfaction is an agreement between two parties whereby one party agrees to accept something of lesser value or a different type of performance than what was originally agreed upon as full payment for their obligation.

  1. Restitution

Restitution is a legal remedy that requires the wrongdoer to return any money or property that they obtained through wrongful means. This could be done voluntarily or by court order depending on the circumstances of the case.

  1. Interpleader

Interpleader is a legal procedure that allows one party (the interpleader) to join two or more parties as defendants in a lawsuit so they can resolve any disputes between them. This is often done when the interpleader has money or property that it is not legally allowed to keep but cannot determine who should get it.

  1. Caveat Emptor

Caveat emptor is a Latin phrase meaning “let the buyer beware.” It is used to remind buyers that they need to take responsibility for ensuring that any goods or services they purchase are of a satisfactory quality.

  1. Rescission

Rescission is the legal process by which a contract can be terminated and the parties restored to their pre-contractual position. This usually occurs when one of the parties breaches a term of the contract, but it can also happen if both parties agree to end it.

  1. Stipulation

A stipulation is an agreement or promise made between two or more parties that alters some aspect of a contract or agreement. Stipulations can be included in the contract itself or set out in a separate document.

  1. Quasi Contract

A quasi-contract is an obligation that is imposed by law on one party to pay another in circumstances where there was no contractual relationship between them. This type of agreement typically arises when one party has received a benefit from the other in good faith.

  1. Contingency

A contingency is a clause in a contract that outlines what will happen if certain conditions or events occur. This could include things like payment for services rendered, the completion of tasks on time, or any other kind of event that affects how the agreement is carried out.

  1. Parol Evidence Rule

The parol evidence rule is a legal principle that prevents parties from introducing evidence outside of the written agreement. This means that verbal or other extrinsic evidence cannot be used to contradict, modify, or explain a contract unless it is explicitly allowed in the contract itself.

  1. Ratification

Ratification is a formal declaration that a contract or other agreement has been accepted and will be carried out as written. This usually requires the consent of all parties involved in the agreement, and once it is ratified, the terms become legally binding.

  1. Coercion

Coercion is a legal term that refers to a situation where one party uses force, threats, or other means to compel another party to enter into an agreement. This type of conduct is usually regarded as unlawful and can make a contract invalid if it was entered into under duress.

  1. Repudiation

Repudiation is the legal act of refusing to accept or abide by a contract or other binding obligation. It may be done unilaterally or in response to another party’s breach of the agreement.

  1. Adhesion Contract

An adhesion contract is an agreement between two parties where one has significantly more bargaining power than the other and, as a result, is able to impose its own terms on the weaker party. These types of contracts are typically found in consumer transactions.

  1. Laches

Laches is a legal doctrine that prevents one party from making unreasonable demands on another due to an unreasonable delay in pursuing their claim. This type of defense is usually used in cases where the party has waited too long to take action and it would be unfair or unreasonable for them to do so at that point.

  1. Unconscionability

Unconscionability is a legal term referring to a contract or agreement that is so one-sided or unconscionable as to shock the conscience. This type of agreement is generally considered void and unenforceable by courts, as it would be unfair to one party.

  1. Chose in Action

A chose in action is a legal term for a right or claim that can only be enforced through the court system. This could include things like intellectual property rights, debt obligations, or other types of claims that must be pursued through the legal system in order to be enforced.

  1. Ultra Vires

Ultra vires is a Latin phrase meaning “beyond the power.” It refers to an act or transaction that is outside of the legal authority of a company, corporation, or other type of organization. This type of conduct is usually considered invalid and unenforceable.

  1. Tender: 

A tender is an offer made in response to a request for quotation or invitation for bids. The tender typically includes detailed information about the proposed project, including cost estimates, timelines and legal requirements.

  1. Assignment: 

The transfer of rights or responsibilities under a contract from one party to another. This could include assigning the right to receive payment, transferring ownership of property, or delegating contractual duties.

  1. Warranties: 

Promises made by one party to another in a contract that they will do certain things related to the agreement. These promises can be either express or implied, and can be used to back up the contract’s obligations.

  1. Indemnitor: 

A person or entity that agrees to protect another from any losses or damages incurred. This could include paying for legal expenses if the indemnified party is sued, or covering any other costs that they may incur due to an action taken by the indemnifying party.

  1. Precedent: 

A legal principle established by prior court decisions that serves as an example or guide for resolving similar cases in the future. Precedent is an important part of common law and can be used to interpret statutes and other legal documents.

  1. Voidable Contract: 

A contract that may be legally unenforceable due to certain circumstances, such as misrepresentation by one of the parties, duress, or failure to meet certain legal requirements. These contracts can be set aside by either party, although the other may have a right to damages.

  1. Promissory Estoppel: 

A legal doctrine that prevents one party from denying an agreement they previously acknowledged and accepted. This could include affirming the validity of a contract after it has been signed, or recognizing a promise to pay even if the agreement is not in writing.

  1. Defeasance: 

A legal term for the cancellation of a debt obligation, usually through the execution of some other document or agreement. This could include paying off the debt in full, exchanging it for another financial instrument, or transferring it to someone else.

  1. Forum Selection Clause: 

A clause in a contract that requires disputes to be resolved by arbitration or litigation in a predetermined location, such as the state where the parties are doing business. These clauses help to ensure that any legal proceedings take place in an unbiased and convenient venue.

  1. Set-Off: 

The mutual cancellation of two debts between two parties, often used to offset a debt owed by one party with a debt owed to them by the other. This could include deducting money owed from an invoice, or reducing a loan amount due to an overpayment.

  1. Partial Performance: 

The performance of only some of the obligations in a contract, such as delivering part of the goods specified or only providing certain services. This type of performance is usually considered to be legally insufficient and can be grounds for a breach of contract.

  1. Indemnity: 

A legal obligation that requires one party to reimburse another for any losses or damages they suffer due to the other’s negligence or wrongful acts. This could include paying compensation for medical bills, property damage, or any other costs incurred.

  1. Merger Clause: 

A clause included in a contract that states that any previous agreements between the parties are superseded by the new contract, and that no other verbal or written promises will be recognized. This helps to ensure that all of a contract’s terms are clearly specified in one document.

  1. Good Faith: 

A legal principle requiring parties in a contract to act fairly and honestly with respect to each other, as well as to fulfill the obligations of the agreement in a timely and reasonable manner. This is an important principle in contract law, and can have serious consequences if violated.

  1. Material Breach: 

A violation of a contractual obligation that goes to the heart of the agreement, making it impossible for one party to receive what they were expecting under the terms of the contract. This could include failing to deliver goods on time, not providing the agreed-upon quality of service, or not following through with other obligations.

  1. Counteroffer: 

An offer by one party in response to an initial offer, rejecting the original terms and replacing them with new ones. This could include reducing or increasing payment amounts, adding or removing certain services, or making other changes to the agreement.

  1. Excuse of Performance: 

A legal doctrine that excuses a person from performing their obligations under a contract due to certain circumstances, such as an unforeseen event or a change in the law. This can be used to release parties from their contractual obligations if they are deemed impossible to fulfill.

  1. Penalties: 

A clause in a contract that requires one party to pay a sum of money (or face other sanctions) if they breach the agreement or fail to fulfill its terms. These clauses are intended to act as a deterrent and help ensure that the contract is followed.

  1. Interpretation: 

The process of determining the meaning of a legal document or agreement based on its language and context. This could include analyzing past court cases for precedent, examining related statutes, or relying on other sources of information to interpret the agreement’s intent.

  1. Joint Obligation: 

A contract obligation that requires two or more parties to fulfill specific obligations together, such as the repayment of a loan or the delivery of goods. This type of agreement could be between individuals, companies, or other entities.

  1. Remedies: 

Legal remedies available to one party if another breaches a contract, such as specific performance (which requires the breaching party to fulfill their obligations) or monetary damages. These remedies are designed to restore the injured party to the position they would have been in had the contract not been breached.

  1. Bilateral Contract: 

A type of agreement between two parties that involves an exchange of promises, such as a sale or loan agreement. Both parties must agree and perform certain tasks in order for the contract to be binding.

  1. Force Majeure Clause: 

A clause in a contract that excuses performance of an obligation if certain events occur outside of the parties’ control, such as natural disasters, war, or government-mandated shutdowns. This clause helps protect parties from being held liable for events beyond their control.

  1. Mitigation: 

An obligation of one party to take reasonable steps to reduce the damages they suffer due to a breach of contract by another party. This could include seeking alternative sources for goods or services, or taking other measures to minimize losses caused by the breach.

  1. Defenses: 

Legal arguments used by a party to avoid liability for breach of contract, such as mistake (where one party was unaware of a fact that would have changed their decision to enter the agreement) or impossibility (where performance is made impossible due to an unforeseeable event).

  1. Void Contract: 

A contract that is legally unenforceable due to certain conditions, such as lack of consideration or public policy concerns. These contracts are considered invalid from the outset, and a party may not be held liable for failing to fulfill their obligations under them.

  1. Discharge of Contract: 

The act of ending a contractual agreement by either performance or agreement of the parties. This could be accomplished by both parties agreeing to terminate the contract, one party fulfilling all obligations under the agreement, or other means of bringing the agreement to an end.

  1. Merger: 

A legal principle that states that an agreement is discharged when the parties merge their obligations into one final expression of agreement, such as a deed or court judgment. This principle is often used in contract law to end previous agreements and replace them with a new one.

  1. Assignee: 

A person or entity to whom rights or obligations under a contract are assigned by one of the original parties. This could include transferring ownership of property, assigning a debt to another party, or otherwise transferring contractual obligations from one person to another.

  1. Mistake: 

A term used in contract law to refer to errors made by one or both parties when entering into an agreement, resulting in one party receiving less than they bargained for or the other party being unable to perform their obligations. These errors can be made innocently or due to misrepresentation of facts.

  1. Unconditional Contract: 

A contract that does not contain any conditions or requirements for either party to fulfill before its terms are binding. These contracts are typically simpler than conditional contracts, which require certain tasks to be completed before the agreement is enforceable.

  1. Restraint of Trade: 

A contract clause in which one party agrees not to enter into certain types of business activities with other parties for a specified period of time. This is commonly used in employment agreements, as an employee may agree not to work for a competitor after leaving the company.

  1. Severability Clause: 

A clause in a contract that states that if any part of the agreement is deemed invalid or unenforceable, then that section can be struck and the remaining parts of the contract will remain in effect. This helps keep a contract valid even if certain portions are found to be legally unenforceable.

  1. Nominate: 

A term used in contract law to refer to a party’s right to appoint a third party as their representative for purposes of fulfilling obligations under the agreement. This could include appointing an attorney to represent them in court, or another type of representative for other purposes.

  1. Guarantee: 

A contractual agreement in which one party promises to be responsible for the performance of another, such as a guarantor agreeing to cover any damages or debts incurred by the other party. This helps provide additional protection against potential losses due to a breach of contract.

  1. Reformation: 

The act of changing certain parts of an existing contract in order to make them more equitable and reasonable. This could include changing the terms of payment, modifying a delivery schedule, or other changes meant to better reflect the intentions of both parties when entering into the contract. Reformation can be requested by either party if they feel that the existing agreement no longer reflects their current needs or interests. Reformation is often used in cases where one party has been misled or taken advantage of, and the original contract is deemed to be unfair or unreasonable.


In conclusion, these are just some of the most common legal terminologies used in contract law. It is important to understand all of the terms and conditions of any agreement you enter into, or if not, consult a qualified legal expert. Understanding contract law can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches in the long run.

Knowing these legal terms will also help ensure that you are getting into contracts with people you can trust and who agree to abide by the same rules and regulations that you do. With this knowledge, you can enter into agreements with confidence, safe in the knowledge that your rights and interests are being protected.

It is important to remember, however, that while these terminologies play a significant role in contract law, they are just one part of it. Understanding all aspects of contract law takes time and careful consideration, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek professional advice if necessary. That way, you can ensure that you are making the best decision possible for your situation.

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