Legal Dictionary


Definition of veto


    From Latin vetō (“I forbid”)


  • (RP) IPA: /ˈviːtəʊ/, SAMPA: /"vi:t@U/
  • (US) IPA: /ˈviːtoʊ/, SAMPA: /"vi:toU/
  • Rhymes: -iːtəʊ


veto (plural vetoes or vetos)

  1. A political right to disapprove of (and thereby stop) the process of a decision, a law etc.
  2. An invocation of that right.


veto (third-person singular simple present vetoes, present participle vetoing, simple past and past participle vetoed)

  1. (transitive) To use a veto against.

Further reading

A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation.

In practice, the veto can be absolute, as for instance in the United Nations Security Council, whose permanent members China, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and the United States of America) can block any resolution. Or, it can be limited, as in the legislative process of the United States, where a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate may override a Presidential veto of legislation.[1]

A veto only gives power to stop changes, not to adopt them. The veto therefore conveys to its holder an ability to protect the status quo.

The concept of a veto body originated with the Roman consuls and tribunes. Either of the two consuls holding office in a given year could block a military or civil decision by the other; any tribune had the power to unilaterally block legislation passed by the Roman Senate.[2]

Westminster systems

In Westminster Systems and most constitutional monarchies, the power to veto legislation by withholding the Royal Assent is a rarely used reserve power of the monarch. In practice, the Crown follows the convention of exercising its prerogative on the advice of its chief advisor, the prime minister.

The House of Lords used to have the power of veto. However, reform first by a Liberal government and then by a Labour government has seen their powers limited. The Parliamentary Acts of 1911 and 1949 saw their powers reduced to being able to amend and delay legislation. They are able to delay legislation for up to one year. Under the 1911 Act, money bills may not be delayed, and under the Salisbury Convention, they cannot delay any bills laid out in the party's manifesto.

In Spain, the article 115 of the Constitution provides that the King shall give his assent to laws passed by the General Courts within 15 days after their final passement by them; the absence of the royal assent, although not constitutionally provided, would mean the bill not to become law.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the royal veto ("withholding Royal Assent") was last exercised in 1707 by Queen Anne with the Scottish Militia Bill 1708.

United States

All legislation passed by both houses of Congress must be presented to the President. This presentation is in the President's capacity as Head of State.

If the President approves of the legislation, he signs it (sign into law). If he does not approve, he must return the bill, unsigned, within ten days, excluding Sundays, to the house of the United States Congress in which it originated, while the Congress is in session. The President is constitutionally required to state his objections to the legislation in writing, and the Congress is constitutionally required to consider them, and to reconsider the legislation. This action, in effect, is a veto.

If the Congress overrides the veto by a two-thirds majority in each house, it becomes law without the President's signature. Otherwise, the bill fails to become law unless it is presented to the President again and he chooses to sign it.

A bill can also become law without the President's signature if, after it is presented to him, he simply fails to sign it within the ten days noted. If there are fewer than ten days left in the session before Congress adjourns, and if Congress does so adjourn before the ten days have expired in which the President might sign the bill, then the bill fails to become law. This procedure, when used as a formal device, is called a pocket veto.


  1. Article I, Section 7, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution
  2. Spitzer, Robert J. (1988). The presidential veto: touchstone of the American presidency. SUNY Press. pp. 1-2. ISBN 9780887068027.


  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