Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2019


The history of legal transplantations from one legal system to another is as long as law itself. It has numerous edifications and names including reception, borrowing, and influence. Legal transplantations from one legal system to another come at various levels of substance and penetration including the transplantation of a legal tradition (English common law to the United States and the English Commonwealth), transplantation of national law (Turkey's adoption of Swiss Civil Code), transplantation of an area of law (Louisiana's adoption and retention of French sales law), transplantation of a rule or concept (Chinese adoption of principle of good faith), and superficial transplantation of a term or word. The focus of this article is on the latter form of transplantation, more specifically, the borrowing of English legal terms by foreign legislatures and judiciaries. The adopting of English terms and concepts into Italian law will serve as a case study. The key feature of superficial transplantations is that the English terminology is severed from the context of the country from which it is borrowed. The transplantation is most dangerous when the transference is without proper definitional and interpretive criteria to provide the means to guide courts and regulatory agencies in their interpretation and application. Superficial transplantations are doomed to failure and likely to cause negative consequences such as jurisprudential chaos. This article answers the following questions: (1) why would a country adopt English legal terms when equivalent words are available in its native language? (2) What do recent English term borrowings show as to the reasons and consequences of such transplantations? (3) What factors are determinative of the success of such transplantations? In the end, the trend toward the borrowing of English law terms by non-English speaking countries will continue. It is important for the transplanting countries to realize the dangers of such superficial transplantations and take steps to enhance the likelihood of success.