Why is the word "term" used in 2 different meanings in a contract
Thread poster: jyuan_us

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
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Nov 6, 2015

I find it weird to use it to mean both "a period of time" and "the conditions" in a contract.

Do English speaking people feel a lack of terms when they write up contracts?

[Edited at 2015-11-06 03:51 GMT]


 

Michael Newton  Identity Verified
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"Term" vs. "Terms" Nov 6, 2015

When used in the singular, "term" can mean "period of time"; e.g. "President Obama's second term". One could also say: "President Obama's two terms".
When used in the plural, "terms" can mean "conditions"; e.g. "must comply with the terms of the contract".

"During the spring term, the student refused to comply with the terms of the scholarship and was dismissed."


 

liviu roth
United States
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Romanian to English
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101 legalese Nov 6, 2015

jyuan_us wrote:

I find it weird to use it to mean both "a period of time" and "the conditions" in a contract.

Do English speaking people feel a lack of terms when they write up contracts?



In other languages it is the same.


 

Mariella Bonelli  Identity Verified
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Same thing in Italian Nov 6, 2015

The same confusion can be found in Italian too, "termine" and "termini" used in the ways you described. When I translate in Italian I tend to change it and use synonyms in order to avoid any confusion. So I know what you mean.

 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:56
Member (2008)
Italian to English
that's 3 Nov 6, 2015

liviu roth wrote:

jyuan_us wrote:

I find it weird to use it to mean both "a period of time" and "the conditions" in a contract.

Do English speaking people feel a lack of terms when they write up contracts?



In other languages it is the same.


That's 3:

"term" = word
"term" = condition
"term" = period of time

This happens in all languages. The meaning of a word can change, depending on the context in which it is used.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
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Homonyms Nov 6, 2015

It is that kind of thing that keeps us in work.

We humans CAN in fact cope quite well with things like that, and no lawyer (or translator) worth his/her salt would have trouble with using the single and plural correctly and understanding the context.

It is computers that have trouble with it - artificial intelligence has to place its bets, and can't win every time.

It would be a nightmare as PEMT, but most languages have many examples of words that look similar, but mean different things.

However, in terms of cold logic - just don't go there - it doesn't always apply to English, at least on the surface. Deep down the mines of etymology and linguistics ... is often quite another story.


 

Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
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Dutch to English
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The long and short of it Nov 6, 2015

is that Latin was used in Europe for official things all through the Middle Ages.

See the OED (Etymology Online):

c. 1200, terme "limit in time, set or appointed period," from Old French terme "limit of time or place, date, appointed time, duration" (11c.), from Latin terminus "end, boundary line," in Medieval Latin "expression, definition," related to termen "boundary, end" (see terminus). Old English had termen "term, end," from Latin. Sense of "period of time during which something happens" first recorded c. 1300, especially of a school or law court session (mid-15c.).

The meaning "word or phrase used in a limited or precise sense" is first recorded late 14c., from Medieval Latin use of terminus to render Greek horos "boundary," employed in mathematics and logic. Hence in terms of "in the language or phraseology peculiar to." Meaning "completion of the period of pregnancy" is from 1844. Term-paper in U.S. educational sense is recorded from 1931.


The 'terms of a contract' as in a 'limiting condition' came in the early 14th centure, it seems derived from the Greek 'horos' (see above).
And then you've got all these things with 'terms' like 'come to terms', 'be on good/bad terms with', etc.

Not all that peculiar, when you think about it, although I can imagine it's confusing for people who come from places where Latin wasn't used.


 

Teresa Borges
Portugal
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The same happens to lots of other terms Nov 6, 2015

For instance, circulation has lots of different meanings: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/circulation

 


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