Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of element


  1. One of the constituent parts (as a particular act, a mental state, or an attendant circumstance) of a crime as defined by statute that the prosecution must prove to win a conviction.

Definition of element


    From Middle English element < Old French element < Latin elementum ("a first principle, element, rudiment"); origin uncertain.



element (plural elements)

  1. One of the simplest or essential parts or principles of which anything consists, or upon which the constitution or fundamental powers of anything are based.
  2. (chemistry) Any one of the simplest chemical substances that cannot be decomposed in a chemical reaction or by any chemical means and made up of atoms all having the same number of protons.
  3. One of the four basic building blocks of matter in theories of ancient philosophers and alchemists: water, earth, fire, and air
  4. Something small.

    an element of doubt

  5. (plural only; not used in singular form) Atmospheric forces such as strong winds and rains.
  6. A place or state of being that an individual or object is better suited towards.

    be in one's own element

  7. (law) A required aspect or component of a cause of action. A deed is regarded a violation of law only if each element can be proved.
  8. (set theory) One of the objects in a set.
  9. A group of people within a larger group having a particular common characteristic.

    You sometimes find the hooligan element at football matches.

  10. A short form of heating element, a component in electrical equipment, often in the form of a coil, having a high resistance, thereby generating heat when a current is passed through it.

    The element in this electric kettle can heat the water in under a minute.

  11. (computing) One of the conceptual objects in a markup language, usually represented in text by a matching pair of tags.


  • (in chemistry): chemical element
  • (in set theory): member

Derived terms

  • chemical element
  • data element
  • heating element

Related terms

  • elemental
  • elementary

Further reading

Element (criminal law)

An element of a crime (collectively called elements of crime) is a basic set of common law principles regarding criminal liability that, with few exceptions, constitute the essential elements to prove that the defendant committed a crime under United States law. The jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the particular crime charged before deciding on a guilty verdict. The component parts that make up any particular crime vary depending on the crime.

The basic components are listed below. However, the two generally necessary elements which must coexist for a crime to have occurred is that the defendant must have committed an act and that act must have been committed with intention.


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


1.     lex fori
2.     lex situs
3.     lex causae
4.     conclusive presumption
5.     AORO
6.     landed property
7.     lex domicilii
8.     Miranda warning
9.     lex loci delicti commissi
10.     Clayton's Case