Ejusdem Generis Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Ejusdem Generis?

(eh-youse-dem generous) v adj. Latin for “of the same kind,” used to interpret loosely written statutes. Where a law lists specific classes of persons or things and then refers to them in general, the general statements only apply to the same kind of persons or things specifically listed. Example: if a law refers to automobiles, trucks, tractors, motorcycles and other motor-powered vehicles, “vehicles” would not include airplanes, since the list was of land-based transportation.

History and Meaning of Ejusdem Generis

Ejusdem Generis is a legal term used to interpret vaguely worded legal statutes. The term is derived from Latin and means “of the same kind”. It is commonly used to clarify ambiguities in laws by inferring the intention of the lawmaker from the words used in the statute. Ejusdem Generis is based on the idea that when a general term is followed by specific terms that have something in common, the general term only applies to things of the same kind as the specific terms.

Examples of Ejusdem Generis

Here are a few examples of how Ejusdem Generis can be used in different contexts:

  • A law states that dogs, cats, birds, and other pets are not allowed in a public park. In this case, "other pets" would only include animals of a similar kind to dogs, cats, and birds, and not other types of pets, such as hamsters or snakes.
  • A contract lists different types of fruits like apples, oranges, and pears along with the words "and other fruits." Here, the term "other fruits" would only include fruits of the same kind as apples, oranges, and pears, like peaches or plums.
  • A law prohibits the carrying of "weapons such as guns, knives, and other deadly instruments." In this case, the term "deadly instruments" would only apply to items that are similar in danger to guns and knives.
  • A sign in a parking lot says, "No cars or other motor vehicles allowed". In this example, "other motor vehicles" would only include vehicles of the same kind as cars, like trucks and vans, but not airplanes or motorcycles.

Legal Terms Similar to Ejusdem Generis

Here are three related legal terms:

  • Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius - Latin term meaning "the expression of one thing is the exclusion of another." This legal principle implies that when a law specifies a list of things, anything that is not on the list is excluded from the law's coverage.
  • Noscitur a Sociis - Another Latin term meaning "known by its associates." This legal principle suggests that the meaning of a word should be interpreted in relation to the words that surround it in the statute.
  • Superfluous - Not a legal term, but a useful concept to understand when dealing with Ejusdem Generis. Superfluous refers to something that is unnecessary, redundant, or excessive. In legal language, a superfluous term is one that has little or no effect on the meaning of a statute.