Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of cheque


  1. A form of bill of exchange where the order to pay is given to a bank which is holding the payor's money.

Definition of cheque

Alternative spellings


    From Persian چک (chek).
    -que ending from French


  • enPR: chĕk, IPA: /ʧek/, SAMPA: /tSek/
  • Rhymes: -ɛk
  • Homophones: check, Czech


cheque (plural cheques)

  1. (British, Canadian) A note promising to pay money to a named person or entity.

    I was not carrying cash, so I wrote a cheque for the amount.

Derived terms

terms derived from cheque

  • bank cheque
  • cheque book, chequebook
  • bounce a cheque
  • paycheque
  • rain cheque
  • traveller's cheque

Further reading

A cheque, also spelled check (see below), is a negotiable instrument[nb 1] instructing a financial institution to pay a specific amount of a specific currency from a specified demand account held in the maker/depositor's name with that institution. Both the maker and payee may be natural persons or legal entities.

Etymology and spelling

The most common spellings of the word (in all its senses) were check, checque, and cheque from the 1600s until the 1900s.[1] Since the 1800s, the spelling cheque (from the French word ch�que) is standard for the financial sense of the word in the Commonwealth and Ireland, while only check is retained in its other senses, thus distinguishing the two definitions in writing.[nb 2]

On the other hand, check is used for the financial sense in the U.S.

Parts of a cheque

Cheques generally contain:

  1. place of issue
  2. cheque number
  3. date of issue
  4. payee
  5. amount of currency
  6. signature of the drawer
  7. routing / account number in MICR format. In the U.S., the routing number is a nine-digit number in which the first 4 digits identifies the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank's cheque-processing center. This is followed by digits 5 through 8, identifying the specific bank served by that cheque-processing center. Digit 9 is a verification check digit, computed using a complex algorithm of the previous 8 digits.
  8. Typically the routing number is followed by a group 8 or 9 MICR digits that indicates the particular account number at that bank. The account number is assigned independently by the various banks.
  9. Typically the account number is followed by a group of 3 or 4 MICR digits that indicates a particular cheque number from that account.
  10. fractional routing number (U.S. only) - also known as the transit number, consists of a denominator mirroring the first 4 digits of the routing number. And a hyphenated numerator, also known as the ABA number, in which the first part is a city code (1-49), if the account is in one of 49 specific cities, or a state code (50-99) if it is not in one of those specific cities; the second part of the hyphenated numerator mirrors the 5th through 8th digits of the routing number with leading zeros removed.

A cheque is generally valid indefinitely or for six months after the date of issue unless otherwise indicated; this varies depending on where the cheque is drawn. In Australia, for example, it is fifteen months. In the United States, it is six months. Legal amount (amount in words) is also highly recommended but not strictly required.

In the USA and some other countries, cheques contain a memo line where the purpose of the cheque can be indicated as a convenience without affecting the official parts of the cheque. This is not used in Britain where such notes are often written on the reverse side.

In the USA, at the top (when cheque oriented vertically) of the reverse side of the cheque, there are usually one or more blank lines labelled something like "Endorse here".


  1. Although cheques are regulated in most countries as negotiable instruments, in many countries they are not actually negotiable, viz., the payee cannot endorse the cheque in favour of a third party. Payers could usually designate a cheque as being payable to a named payee only by "crossing" the cheque, thereby designating it as account payee only, but in an effort to combat financial crime, many countries have provided by a combination of law and regulation that all cheques should be treated as crossed, or account payee only, and are not negotiable.
  2. James William Gilbart in 1828 explains in a footnote 'Most writers spell it check. I have adopted the above form because it is free from ambiguity and is analogous to the ex-chequer, the royal treasury. It is also used by the Bank of England "Cheque Office"'.[2]


  1. "Cheque, check". Oxford English Dictionary. London: Oxford University Press. 2009. pp. 350.
  2. Gilbart, James William (1828). A practical treatise on Banking, containing an account of the London and County Banks ... a view of Joint Stock Banks, and the Branch Banks of the Bank of England, etc (2nd ed.). London: E Wilson. pp. 115.


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

Translation of cheque in Malay



a note promising to pay money to a named person or entity

  1. cek


1.     AORO
2.     stare decisis
3.     Miranda warning
4.     adjudication order
5.     appellant
6.     lex patriae
7.     case law
8.     abscond
9.     void contract
10.     respondeat superior