Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of caveat


    Latin Origin


  1. Let him beware. A formal warning. Caveat emptor means let the buyer beware or that the buyers should examine and check for themselves things which they intend to purchase and that they cannot later hold the vendor responsible for the broken condition of the thing bought.

Definition of caveat


    From the Latin verb form caveat ("he may beware of"), from caveō ("I beware of").



caveat (plural caveats)

  1. a warning

    * 1986 March 9, Roy Blount Jr., "Able Were They Ere They Saw Cable", New York Times:
    Two young Harvard M.B.A.'s worked up some highly optimistic projections -- with the
    caveat that these were speculative and should of course be tested.

  2. a qualification or exception

    He gave his daughter some hyacinth bulbs with the caveat that she plant them in the shade.

  3. (law) a notice requesting a postponement of a court proceeding
  4. (law) a formal notice of interest in land, under a Torrens land-title system


to caveat (third-person singular simple present caveats, present participle caveating, simple past and past participle caveated)

  1. To qualify a particular statement with a proviso or caveat

    * 1996, Raymond M. Saunders, Blood Tells: A Thriller[1], page 217:
    I want to caveat everything I say with the disclaimer that I was working from photos.

  2. (law) To lodge a formal notice of interest in land, under a Torrens land-title system

    * 2005, Geoff Moore, Essential Real Property, ISBN 1876905174, page 93:
    It is unclear whether or not a purchaser upon exchange of contracts will be regarded as guilty of postponing conduct if failing to caveat.

  3. (law, dated) To issue a notice requesting that proceedings be suspended

    * 1840, T.P. Devereux & W.H. Battle, "Gee v. Gee & Tunstall", in Reports of cases in equity, argued and determined before the Supreme Court of North Carolina, page 108:
    The answer further alleged that the intestate, in right of his wife, caveated the probate in Virginia of the will of one William Hill, her relation […]

    * 1913 December 6, "Probate Court", Sydney Morning Herald, page 5:
    The defendant, father of the testator, had caveated against granting of probate on the ground that the will not duly executed, […]

  4. (obsolete) To warn or caution against some event

    * 1663 December 14, John Scott, "Captain John Scott to Under Secr'y William.", in Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of New York[2], volume 3, published 1853, page 48:
    I beseach you to caveat any addresse being fully heard until some person commissioned from this Countrey be their to confront the sayd Dutch or their complices.

    * 1825, John Jamieson, Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, volume 1, page 210:
    This last expression minds me to caveat the Reader, not to be angry at Helebore because it's called Christmas flowre; […]

Usage notes

  • The modern use of "caveat" as a verb meaning "to qualify with a proviso" is often considered awkward or improper. This usage is strongly associated with former US Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
    • 1981, Jim Quinn, "Lingo", The Nation:
      Brzezinski never used caveat as a verb. Does that make him better than Haig?
    • 1993, Robert McCrum et al., The Story of English[3], 2002 ed., page 43:
      Some years ago, General Alexander Haig […] was widely criticized (and parodied) for using nouns as verbs in a highly idiosyncratic way, known as Haigspeak: phrases like 'I'll have to caveat my response, Senator, and I'll caveat that', […] From one point of view, however, Haig was merely displaying the virtuosity of English, if not its grace.
    • 2003, William A. McIntosh, Guide to Effective Military Writing, page 59:
      Using words such as "caveat," "resource," and "interface" as verbs is not only poor style, but also poor usage. They are nouns, not verbs, and they shouldn't be used as if they were.

    See also

    • caveating


    • "caveat" in Black's Law Dictionary, 8th edition (West Group, 2004), page 236.
    • "caveat" in A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, 2nd edition (Oxford University Press, 2001), page 140.

    Derived terms

    • caveatable
    • caveatee
    • caveator
    • caveatory
    • caveatrix
    • uncaveated

    Related terms


    • Alphagram: aacetv
    • vacate


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


1.     warrant
2.     tampering
3.     emtio
4.     amnesty law
5.     magistrates court
6.     lex fori
7.     landed property
8.     lex situs
9.     lex causae
10.     ownership