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Giving a break

It’s the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.

Some people got up at the crack of dawn to stand in line to grab the bargain of the year in what are called Black Friday sales.

Some others — and The Legal Genealogist makes no admissions here — might have slept in today, still in a bit of a food coma from yesterday’s feast.

Which makes it a perfect day for more legal alphabet soup, and indeed since we’re up to the letter R, an absolutely perfect day for today’s alphabet soup word.


2019 letter R

A word that most of us (and today that especially includes The Legal Genealogist) use to mean “an interval of rest of relief.”1

And that, in the law, is used mostly to mean “a period of temporary delay.”2

You’ll see it, first, in the sense of the “temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence; a reprieve; a delay, forbearance, or continuation of time.”3

So it means a continuance — and the example used in Black’s Law Dictionary is: “In English practice, a jury is said, on the record, to be ‘respited’ till the next term.”4

You’ll see it a lot in law books and court records as a verb: to respite a criminal sentence, and often in the context of the death penalty.5

In civil law, it means “an act by which a debtor, who is unable to satisfy his debts at the moment, transacts (compromises) with his creditors, and obtains from them time or delay for the payment of the sums which he owes to them.”6

Or there can be a respite of appeal: “Adjourning an appeal to some future time.”7

Or a respite of homage: “To dispense with the performance of homage by tenants who held their lands in consideration of performing homage to their lords.”8

And with that, those of us who may or may not still be recovering from a food coma can go back to definition 1: “an interval of rest of relief.”

Cite/link to this post: Judy G. Russell, “2019 alphabet soup: R is for…,” The Legal Genealogist ( : posted 29 Nov 2019).


  1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary ( : accessed 29 Nov 2019), “respite,” definition 2.
  2. Ibid., definition 1.
  3. Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 1033, “respite.”
  4. Ibid.
  5. See e.g. §1, “An act for establishing a district court on the western waters,” 11 Hening’s Statutes at Large, 85, 88 (1782).
  6. Black, A Dictionary of Law, 1033, “respite.”
  7. Ibid., 1034, “respite of appeal.”
  8. Ibid., “respite of homage.”
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