Extinguishment Definition and Legal Meaning

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

What is Extinguishment?

n. A right’s cancellation because the enforcement time has passed. For example: waiting for more than four years after a due date to make a payment demand of a promissory note eliminates the person’s right to collect the money that is due. Extinguishment can also occur by fulfilling an obligation so that additional money or performance is not due.

History and Meaning of Extinguishment

Extinguishment is a legal term that refers to the right's cancellation because the enforcement time has passed or the obligation has been fulfilled. Simply put, when an obligation or right is extinguished, it no longer has any legal standing.

The idea of extinguishment has its roots in English common law, which is the legal system that emerged in England in the 11th century. Under common law, extinguishment was used to describe the termination of an existing right or obligation by an act of a higher power.

Over time, extinguishment came to be used in other legal contexts, such as contract law and property law, to refer to the cancellation of a right or obligation due to various factors, such as the passage of time or the fulfillment of certain conditions.

Examples of Extinguishment

  1. A creditor has four years to pursue payment on a promissory note. If they wait longer than four years, their right to collect the money due is extinguished.

  2. If a tenant has fulfilled all of their obligations under a lease agreement, the landlord's right to collect additional rent or fees is extinguished.

  3. In property law, the right to an easement may be extinguished if it's not used for a certain period of time.

Legal Terms Similar to Extinguishment

  1. Termination - the act of bringing something to an end, whether it's a contract, tenancy, or employment relationship.

  2. Release - a legal document that extinguishes or releases someone from their obligations or claims.

  3. Waiver - the voluntary relinquishment or abandonment of a legal right or claim.