Legal Glossary (English and Latin) - A

Ab extra

The Latin term "Ab extra" means, in a UK legal context: "from outside".

Ab initio

The Latin term "Ab initio" means, in a UK legal context: "from the beginning".

Actus Reus

The Latin term "Actus reus " means, in a UK legal context: "a guilty deed or act".

Accounting Period

An Accounting Period is a company's financial year i.e. the period for which it prepares statutory accounts.

Under the Companies Act 2006 an accounting (reference) period runs from one accounting reference date to the next. A company's first accounting period is a period of 6 to 18 months starting on the date of incorporation and ending on the company's accounting reference date. Subsequent accounting periods are 12 months long starting immediately after the end of the previous accounting period and ending on the accounting reference date.

Accounting Reference Date

Under Section 391 of the Companies Act 2006, the accounting reference date is the date on which the financial year of a company ends, defining the period for which its statutory accounts are to be prepared.

A company can nominate its accounting reference date by giving appropriate notice within nine months of incorporation. If not specified then the accounting reference date will be the last day of the month in which the anniversary of the company's incorporation falls (for companies incorporated after 1 April 1990). A company may change its accounting reference date by giving notice to the registrar.

Ad hoc

The Latin term "Ad hoc " means, in a UK legal context: "for this purpose".

Ad infinitum

The Latin term "Ad infinitum " means, in a UK legal context: "forever, without limit, to infinity".


An agent is a person who is authorised to carry out activities on behalf of his principal and to enter into commitments by which the principal will be bound. The term usually refers to a businessman who finds business for you and takes a commission.

Agency Agreement

An Agency Agreement is an agreement which allows one party (the Agent) to sell the products or goods of another party (the Principal) in return for commission payments.


The Latin term "Alibi" means, in a UK legal context: "at another place, elsewhere".


The Latin term "Aliunde" means, in a UK legal context: "from elsewhere" or "from a different source".

Alternate Director

Under the Articles of Association of a company a director can appoint another person to hold office and act in his place as a director on a temporary basis. An alternate director can vote at board meetings and carry out the same functions as his appointing director in his absence. The alternate carries full legal responsibility and liability as a director. Sometimes alternates may only be appointed from other members of the board to avoid the introduction of outsiders.

Amicus curiae

The Latin term "Amicus curiae" means, in a UK legal context: "a friend of the court".

Annual General Meeting

An Annual General Meeting is a meeting of a company's shareholders, held each calendar year, to typically deal with matters such as the adoption of the previous year's financial statements, rotation of directors and the appointment of auditors. Shareholders may also use the opportunity to ask questions of the Board at the Annual General Meeting.

Under the Companies Act 2006 a private company no longer needs to hold an Annual General Meeting unless required to do so by their articles of association.


The Latin term "Ante" means, in a UK legal context: "before".


The settling of a dispute by an arbitrator. Arbitration is a long established alternative to litigation (which may not always be less complex) and which involves an arbitrator reaching a judgment, which is binding on both parties. Where arbitrators cannot agree they may appoint an "umpire". The decision of an arbitrator is known as an "award".

Arbitration Award

An Arbitration Award is an agreement to submit to arbitration present or future disputes (whether they are contractual or not). The reference in an agreement to a written form of arbitration clause or to a document containing an arbitration clause constitutes an arbitration agreement if the reference is such as to make that clause part of the agreement.


An Arbitrator is a disinterested person selected by agreement of contesting parties (or by the court) to hear and settle some disputed question between them. The test for apparent or unconscious bias in an arbitrator is whether there was any real danger that he was biased.

Articles of Association

Under the Companies Act 2006 the articles of association is document in which the constitution of a company is defined and includes fundamentals such as the name and the internal regulations and bye-laws covering procedure, shares, meetings, directors and other administrative issues.

Model articles are set out in The Companies (Model Articles) Regulations 2008 and are often used as the basis for a company's articles of association document. The model articles apply, by default, to companies who do not provide their own set of articles of association when registering the company. Changes to a company's articles may be made by special resolution.


The general rule is that every company must appoint a firm of accountants as its auditors to carry out an audit of its accounts. The rule is relaxed for dormant companies or those with a low turnover. The appointment (or re-appointment) is made by shareholders at the general meeting of the company at which the accounts are read.

Authorised Share Capital

Authorised share capital is the maximum number of shares a company may issue.

Prior to The Companies Act 2006 a private company limited by shares was required to specify its authorised share capital in its memorandum of association. The concept of authorised share capital was abolished in the Companies Act 2006. Companies incorporated prior to 1 October 2009 are still restricted in the number of shares they may allocate by their authorised share capital unless their articles have been appropriately amended.

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