Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of appearance

  1. The act of showing up in court as either plaintiff, defendant, accused or any other party to a civil or criminal suit. It implies that you accept the power of the court to try the matter (i.e. "jurisdiction"). Appearances are most often made by lawyers on their clients behalf and any appearance by a lawyer binds the client. You can make a limited appearance called a "special appearance" in which your presence is not to imply acceptance of the court's jurisdiction but, rather, to challenge the jurisdiction of the court. An example of the usefulness of a "special appearance" would be where you want to raise the fact that you were never properly served with the court papers.

Definition of appearance


    From French apparence, from Latin apparentia, from appareo.


  • (RP) IPA: /əˈpɪəɹəns/
  • (GenAm) IPA: /əˈpɪɹəns/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Hyphenation: ap‧pear‧ance


appearance (plural appearances)

  1. The act of appearing or coming into sight; the act of becoming visible to the eye.

    His sudden appearance surprised me.

  2. A thing seen; a phenomenon; an apparition.

    There was a strange appearance in the sky.

  3. Personal presence; look; aspect; mien.

    And now am come to see . . . It thy appearance answer loud report. --Milton.

  4. apparent likeness; external show; how something appears to others.

    There was upon the tabernacle, as it were, the appearance of fire. --Num. ix. 15.
    For man looketh on the outward appearance. --1 Sam. xvi. 7.
    Judge not according to the appearance. --John. vii. 24.

  5. The act of appearing in a particular place, or in society, a company, or any proceedings; a coming before the public in a particular character.

    A person makes his appearanceas an historian, an artist, or an orator.
    David Beckham's first appearance with the LA Galaxy at Giants Stadium against the New York Red Bulls last night drew a crowd of 66237.
    Will he now retire, After appearance, and again prolong Our expectation? --John Milton.

  6. (law) The coming into court of either of the parties; the being present in court; the coming into court of a party summoned in an action, either by himself or by his attorney, expressed by a formal entry by the proper officer to that effect; the act or proceeding by which a party proceeded against places himself before the court, and submits to its jurisdiction.
  7. (medicine), chiefly used by nurses: the act of defecation by a patient.

    The patient had a small bowel obstruction and there was no appearance until after the obstruction resolved.


  • (act of coming into sight): arrival, manifestation,
  • (a thing seen): spectacle, apparition, phenomenon, presence
  • (aspect of a person): aspect, air; figure, look; manner, mien
  • (outward show): semblance, show; pretense, fašade or facade
  • (act of appearing in public): debut

Derived terms

  • court appearance
  • disappearance
  • keep up appearances
  • nonappearance
  • plate appearance
  • put in an appearance
  • reappearance
  • save appearances


  • appearance in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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