Vocabulary from the Magna Carta on its 800th Anniversary

The Magna Carta, signed in 1215, is 800 years old on June 15, 2015. The Magna Carta settled the rebellion of some barons against the king. Although some of the language is still obscure, the document is widely credited as being the first statement of individual rights under kingly rule. Among other things, it put a limit on payments that could be made to a king and ensured swift justice, guaranteed by a board of peers, in this case 25 barons. Here are 35 words from the English translation of the original Latin of this document that is the forerunner of democratic expressions like the Declaration of Independence.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. heir
    a person entitled by law to inherit the estate of another
    KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury,...
  2. baron
    a nobleman (in various countries) of varying rank
    JOHN, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, Greeting.
  3. debtor
    a person who owes a creditor
    (9) Neither we nor our officials will seize any land or rent in payment of a debt, so long as the debtor has movable goods sufficient to discharge the debt.
  4. perpetuity
    the property of being seemingly ceaseless
    + (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.
  5. redress
    make reparations or amends for
    If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress.
  6. respite
    a pause from doing something
    In cases, however, where a man was deprived or dispossessed of something without the lawful judgment of his equals by our father King Henry or our brother King Richard, and it remains in our hands or is held by others under our warranty, we shall have respite for the period commonly allowed to Crusaders, unless a lawsuit had been begun, or an enquiry had been made at our order, before we took the Cross as a Crusader.
  7. inquisition
    a severe interrogation
    (36) In future nothing shall be paid or accepted for the issue of a writ of inquisition of life or limbs.
  8. gratis
    costing nothing
    It shall be given gratis, and not refused.
  9. irrevocably
    in a manner that cannot be taken back
    *(48) All evil customs relating to forests and warrens, foresters, warreners, sheriffs and their servants, or river-banks and their wardens, are at once to be investigated in every county by twelve sworn knights of the county, and within forty days of their enquiry the evil customs are to be abolished completely and irrevocably.
  10. irrespective
    in spite of everything; without regard to drawbacks
    * (10) If anyone who has borrowed a sum of money from Jews dies before the debt has been repaid, his heir shall pay no interest on the debt for so long as he remains under age, irrespective of whom he holds his lands.
  11. levy
    impose and collect
    * (12) No 'scutage' or 'aid' may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter.
  12. remit
    send in payment
    * (55) All fines that have been given to us unjustly and against the law of the land, and all fines that we have exacted unjustly, shall be entirely remitted or the matter decided by a majority judgment of the twenty-five barons referred to below in the clause for securing the peace (§61) together with Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, if he can be present, and such others as he wishes to bring with him.
  13. concession
    the act of yielding
    We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished.
  14. feudal
    relating to a system where vassals are protected by lords
    (4) The guardian of the land of an heir who is under age shall take from it only reasonable revenues, customary dues, and feudal services.
  15. executor
    a person appointed to carry out the terms of the will
    Nothing shall be removed until the whole debt is paid, when the residue shall be given over to the executors to carry out the dead man’s will.
  16. exaltation
    the elevation of a person, as to the status of a god
    KNOW THAT BEFORE GOD, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of...
  17. tithe
    a levy of one tenth of something
    * (25) Every county, hundred, wapentake, and tithing shall remain at its ancient rent, without increase, except the royal demesne manors.
  18. allay
    lessen the intensity of or calm
    * (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:
  19. reverend
    worthy of adoration or reverence
    ...those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin...
  20. tenure
    the term during which some position is held
    (46) All barons who have founded abbeys, and have charters of English kings or ancient tenure as evidence of this, may have guardianship of them when there is no abbot, as is their due.
  21. assail
    attack someone physically or emotionally
    ...which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person...
  22. papal
    proceeding from the head of the Roman Catholic Church
    ...Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric master of the knighthood of the Temple in England, William Marshal earl of Pembroke, William earl of Salisbury, William earl of Warren, William earl of Arundel,...
  23. transgress
    act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises
    If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress.
  24. allegiance
    the act of binding yourself to a course of action
    * (42) In future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm.
  25. discord
    lack of agreement or harmony
    * (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:
  26. rendering
    an explanation of something that is not immediately obvious
    * (53) We shall have similar respite in rendering justice in connexion with forests that are to be disafforested, or to remain forests, when these were first afforested by our father Henry or our brother Richard; with the guardianship of lands in another person's 'fee', when we have hitherto had this by virtue of a 'fee' held of us for knight's service by a third party; and with abbeys founded in another person's 'fee', in which the lord of the 'fee' claims to own a right.
  27. procure
    get by special effort
    We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished.
  28. prudent
    marked by sound judgment
    If we have given the guardianship of the land to a sheriff, or to any person answerable to us for the revenues, and he commits destruction or damage, we will exact compensation from him, and the land shall be entrusted to two worthy and prudent men of the same 'fee', who shall be answerable to us for the revenues, or to the person to whom we have assigned them.
  29. ecclesiastical
    of or associated with a church
    (22) A fine imposed upon the lay property of a clerk in holy orders shall be assessed upon the same principles, without reference to the value of his ecclesiastical benefice.
  30. pertain
    be relevant to
    (5) For so long as a guardian has guardianship of such land, he shall maintain the houses, parks, fish preserves, ponds, mills, and everything else pertaining to it, from the revenues of the land itself.
  31. deprive
    take away
    (20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood.
  32. utmost
    highest in extent or degree
    Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power.
  33. ward
    a person who is under the protection of another
    (3) But if the heir of such a person is under age and a ward, when he comes of age he shall have his inheritance without 'relief' or fine.
  34. render
    give or supply
    On our return from the Crusade, or if we abandon it, we will at once render justice in full.
  35. suffice
    be adequate, either in quality or quantity
    (19) If any assizes cannot be taken on the day of the county court, as many knights and freeholders shall afterwards remain behind, of those who have attended the court, as will suffice for the administration of justice, having regard to the volume of business to be done.

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