In United States legal terminology, a dictum (plural dicta) is a statement of opinion or belief considered authoritative though not binding, because of the authority of the person making it.[1]

There are multiple subtypes of dicta, although due to their overlapping nature, legal practitioners in the U.S. colloquially use dicta to refer to any statement by a court that extends beyond the issue before the court. Dicta in this sense are not binding under the principle of stare decisis, but tend to have a strong persuasive effect, either by being in an authoritative decision, stated by an authoritative judge, or both. These subtypes include:

  • dictum proprium: A personal or individual dictum that is given by the judge who delivers an opinion but that is not necessarily concurred in by the whole court and is not essential to the disposition.
  • gratis dictum: an assertion that a person makes without being obligated to do so, or also a court's discussion of points or questions not raised by the record or its suggestion of rules not applicable in the case at bar.
  • judicial dictum: an opinion by a court on a question that is directly involved, briefed, and argued by counsel, and even passed on by the court, but that is not essential to the decision.
  • obiter dictum in Latin means "something said in passing" and is a comment made while delivering a judicial opinion, but it is unnecessary to the decision in the case and therefore not precedential (although it may be considered persuasive).
  • simplex dictum: an unproved or dogmatic statement.

In English law, a dictum is any statement made as part of a judgment of a court. Thus the term includes dicta merely in passing (referred to as obiter dicta) that are not a necessary part of the reason for the court's decision (referred to as the ratio decidendi). English lawyers do not, as a rule, categorise dicta more finely than into those that are obiter and those that are not.


  1. ^ "dictum", Black's Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004); C.J.S. Courts §§ 142-143.

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  • dictum — dic·tum / dik təm/ n pl dic·ta / tə/ [Latin, utterance, from neuter of dictus, past participle of dicere to say]: a view expressed by a judge in an opinion on a point not necessarily arising from or involved in a case or necessary for determining …   Law dictionary

  • Dictum — (lat.), 1) Spruch, Ausspruch, Bonmot, Sprüchwort; 2) Grundsatz; so: Dictum de omni (D. de exemplo) et nullo (D. de diverso), logischer Grundsatz, der vollständig so lautet: Was der Gattung zukommt od. widerspricht, kommt zu od. widerspricht auch… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Dictum — (latin, Flertal dicia), udsagn, ord; dictum biblicum, bibelsprog; dictum classicum, hovedsted, vigtigste udtalelse om en ting; dicta probantia, bevissteder (især bibelske); dicta septem sapientium, de 7 vises ord; dictus, nævnt, ovennævnt; dicto… …   Danske encyklopædi

  • dictum — ⇒DICTUM, subst. masc. Vx. ,,Dispositif d un jugement, d un arrêt; cette partie d un jugement, d un arrêt qui contient ce que le juge prononce et ordonne (Ac. 1798 1878).Le dictum d une sentence, d un arrêt (Ac. 1798 1878). Rem. Ac. 1878 note que… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • dictum — DICTUM. s. m. Mot emprunté du Latin. Le dispositif d une Sentence, d un Arrêt, cette partie d une Sentence ou d un Arrêt qui contient ce que le Juge prononce et ordonne. Le dictum d une Sentence, d un Arrêt …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • dictum — (n.) 1660s, from L. dictum thing said (a saying, bon mot, prophecy, etc.), an order, command, neuter of dictus, pp. of dicere say (see DICTION (Cf. diction)). In legal use, a judge s expression of opinion which is not the formal resolution of a… …   Etymology dictionary

  • dictum — [n1] saying; proverb adage, aphorism, apothegm, axiom, brocard, gnome, maxim, moral, motto, precept, rule, saw, truism; concepts 278,689 dictum [n2] decree, pronouncement affirmation, assertion, command, declaration, dictate, edict, fiat, order;… …   New thesaurus

  • dictum — Dictum. s. m. Dispositif, cette partie d une sentence ou d un arrest, qui contient ce que le Juge prononce & ordonne. Le dictum d une sentence, d un arrest …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • Dictum — Dic tum, n.; pl. L. {Dicta}, E. {Dictums}. [L., neuter of dictus, p. p. of dicere to say. See {Diction}, and cf. {Ditto}.] 1. An authoritative statement; a dogmatic saying; an apothegm. [1913 Webster] A class of critical dicta everywhere current …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Dictum — (lat., Mehrzahl dicta), Spruch, Ausspruch, Wort; d. biblicum, Bibelspruch; d. classicum, Hauptstelle, Hauptspruch; dicta probantia, Beweissprüche, Beweisstellen, besonders biblische, worauf sich ein Glaubenssatz gründet, oder woraus er… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Dictum — (lat.), Spruch, Ausspruch, Sprichwort …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

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