Chattel Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Chattel, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Chattel?

Items of personal property that are movable in nature.

History and Meaning of Chattel

Chattel is a legal term that has been around for centuries. The word "chattel" comes from the Old Norman French word "chaptel," which means cattle or livestock. In law, Chattel refers to tangible personal property that can be moved or touched, such as furniture, vehicles, and livestock. Unlike real property, which consists of land and buildings, chattels are not fixed to the land and can be moved from place to place. Chattels are considered essential elements of commerce and trade because they can be bought, sold, and exchanged.

Examples of Chattel

Here are a few examples of how the term chattel might be used in different contexts:

  • When someone sells a car, they are selling a piece of chattel.
  • If a person owns livestock like cows, pigs, and sheep, that livestock is considered chattel.
  • Household items like furniture, electronics, and appliances are chattels.
  • Artwork, jewelry, and collectibles like coins or stamps can be considered chattel when they're bought and sold.
  • Office equipment like computers and printers are also chattels.

Legal Terms Similar to Chattel

Here are some related terms you may come across in the legal world:

  • Real property: This term refers to land and everything that is permanently attached to it, such as buildings or trees.
  • Tangible property: This term is similar to chattel and refers to property that can be touched and moved.
  • Personal property: This is a broader term than chattel and includes tangible and intangible property that belongs to an individual, such as bank accounts or patents.