Legal Dictionary

contract law

Legal Definition of contract law


  1. That body of law which regulates the enforcement of contracts. Contract law has its origins thousands of years as the early civilizations began to trade with each other, a legal system was created to support and to facilitate that trade. The English and French developed similar contract law systems, both referring extensively to old Roman contract law principles such as consensus ad idem or caveat emptor. There are some minor differences on points of detail such as the English law requirement that every contract contain consideration. More and more states are changing their laws to eliminate consideration as a prerequisite to a valid contract thus contributing to the uniformity of law. Contract law is the basis of all commercial dealings from buying a bus ticket to trading on the stock market.

Related terms

Definition of contract law

Further reading

English contract law

English contract law is an influential body of law regulating the law of contract that operates in England and Wales. Its doctrines form the basis of contract law across the Commonwealth, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand contract law, India and South Africa, as well as the United States and the wider common law world. It also influences international law.

According to legal scholar Sir John William Salmond, a contract is "an agreement creating and defining the obligations between two or more parties".


In English law, there are three key requirements for the creation of a contract. These are agreement, consideration and an intention to create legal relations. To these key requirements, others can be added. For instance, in contracts for land formal requirements (ie writing the contract down and having it witnessed) are necessary to effect a sale. Also, parties to must have the capacity to contract and must be freely exercising their informed consent to the agreement.


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


1.     landed property
2.     common stock
3.     lex situs
4.     lex causae
5.     lex fori
6.     status quo
7.     buggery
8.     conclusive presumption
9.     interlocutory
10.     writ of seizure and sale