The Law Dictionary

Featuring Black’s Law Dictionary Free Online Legal Dictionary 2nd Ed.

What is LETTER

1. One of the arbitrary marks or characters constituting the alphabet, and used in written language as the representatives of sounds or articulations of the human organs of speech. Several of the letters of the English alphabet have a special significance in jurisprudence, as abbreviations and otherwise, or are employed as numerals. 2. A dispatch or epistle; a written or printed message; a communication in writing from one person to another at a distance. II. S. v. Iluggett (C. C.) 40 Fed. 040; tT. S. v. Denicke (C. C.) 35 Fed. 409. 3. In the imperial law of Rome, “letter” or “epistle” was the name of the answer re turned by the emperor to a question of law submitted to him by the magistrates. 4. A commission, patent, or written Instrument containing or attesting the grant of some power, authority, or right. The word appears in this generic sense in many compound phrases known to commercial law and jurisprudence; e. g., letter of at- torney, letter missive, letter of credit, letters patent. The plural is frequently used. 5. Metaphorically, the verbal expression; the strict literal meaning. The letter of a statute, as distinguished from its spirit, means the strict and exact forec of the language employed, as distinguished from the general purpose and policy of the law. 6. lie who, being the owner of a thing, lets it out to another for hire or compensa- tion. Story, Railm.

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