Etymology of Justice

Justice is described by many dictionaries as the quality of being just or as rightfulness and/or lawfulness. It is also the result of using the law system to judge and penalize criminals (usually because they committed a crime in the eyes of the law).

Justice is a very interesting thing; the desire for justice is often felt only when an injustice actually happens. Indeed, if it were not for the existence of injustices, we wouldn’t have a need for justice in the first place.

It’s something to think about, isn’t it? Justice depends upon a perpetual flow of victims. If there are no victims, then no justice is necessary.


Justice comes from the Middle English justice, which in turn comes from the Old English justise. The first written record of the modern English word justice was found in the mid-12th century.

Justise (also often written as iustise) comes from he Old French justise, which in turn comes from the Latin justitia. Justitia was a word created from the basic word justus (just, lawful, righteous, etc).

Justice, a few hundred years ago, was also often called legal vengeance. There are many writers that believe that justice has its origin in the feeling of vengeance that arises in humans from time to time.

Justus is the singular nominative masculine case. The singular nominative feminine case is justa and the singular nominative neuter case is justum. Following that line of thought (masculine, feminine, neuter), the genitive is justi, justae and justi; the dative is justo, justae and justo. The accusative is justum, justam and justum. The ablative is justo, justa and justo. The vocative is juste, justa and justum.

Justice in Other Languages

Justice in Basque is justizia; in Catalan it’s justícia; in Galician it’s written as xustiza, in German it’s Gerechtigkeit, in French it’s justice, in Dutch it’s justitie, in Italian it’s giustizia, in Portuguese it’s justiça, in Spanish it’s justicia.


Barnhart, Robert K., ed., Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co., 1988.

Lewis, Charlton T., Elementary Latin Dictionary, Oxford, 1890.

Liberman, Anatoly, Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology, University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Watkins, Calvert, ed., The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin Co., 2000