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The language of the law. Part Latin, part Anglo-Saxon, all confusing.

No, A isn’t for Antipodes, although that is the part of the world where The Legal Genealogist is today.

And it isn’t for Auckland, where I’m to be one of the speakers at this weekend’s 50th anniversary conference of the New Zealand Society of Genealogists.

No, since internet connections — and time — may be in short supply over the next few weeks, and since nobody wants the blog to go silent for that long, how about we take a look at some legal alphabet soup? Some words starting with…

Well, for today, we’ll start with A.

So today’s word is ABET.

As in aiding and abetting a crime.

Now the law dictionary definition of abet is, in the criminal law, “To encourage, incite, or set another on to commit a crime. To abet another to commit a murder is to command, procure, or counsel him to commit it.”1

You’ll see the same definition basically in the federal statute making aiding and abetting a crime. Section 2 of Title 18 of the United States Code makes it illegal to aid, abet, counsel, command, induce or procure the commission of a crime.2

So an abettor is an “instigator, or setter on; one who promotes or procures a crime to be committed; one who commands, advises, instigates, or encourages another to commit a crime; a person who, being present or in the neighborhood, incites another to commit a crime, and thus becomes a principal.”3 You may see it in very old English court documents as abettator — it’s the same thing.

And, the definition goes on to explain, “The distinction between abettors and accessaries is the presence or absence at the commission of the crime. Presence and participation are necessary to constitute a person an abettor.”4 You have to be there shouting “hit him!” to be an abettor. If you just gave the person the stick before he set out to find and hit the victim, you’d be an accessory.

Day 1, 2017 alphabet soup.


  1. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 6, “abet.”
  2. 18 U.S.C. §2; Office of the Law Revision Counsel, United States House of Representatives ( : accessed 28 May 2017.)
  3. Black, A Dictionary of Law, 6-7, “abettor.”
  4. Ibid.
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