from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A person who is legally qualified and licensed to represent a person in a legal matter, such as a transaction or lawsuit.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To perform by proxy.
  • To employ as a proxy.
  • noun The appointment of another to act in one's stead; the act of naming an attorney: now used only in the following phrase.
  • noun One who is appointed by another to act in his place or stead; a proxy.
  • noun Specifically In law, one who is appointed or admitted in the place of another to transact any business for him.
  • noun The general supervisor or manager of a plantation. [British West Indies.]
  • noun In United States law, the certificate of the court admitting an attorney to practise, which testifies that the attorney has qualified and taken his oath of office.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • transitive verb obsolete To perform by proxy; to employ as a proxy.
  • noun obsolete A substitute; a proxy; an agent.
  • noun One who is legally appointed by another to transact any business for him; an attorney in fact.
  • noun A legal agent qualified to act for suitors and defendants in legal proceedings; an attorney at law.
  • noun a written authority from one person empowering another to transact business for him.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun US A lawyer; one who advises or represents others in legal matters as a profession.
  • noun An agent or representative authorized to act on someone else's behalf.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a professional person authorized to practice law; conducts lawsuits or gives legal advice


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English attourney, from Old French atorne, from past participle of atorner, to appoint; see attorn.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Old French atornee, feminine past participle of atorner (to prepare, to ready), compare attorn


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  • I think "attorney" is somewhat pretentious, as compared to "lawyer." There is a difference: a lawyer is one who practices law, while an attorney is one who represents someone.

    But it bugs me when people opt for the more hoity-toity. "Attorney" vs. "lawyer." "I" instead of "me."

    "Physician" over "doctor" (though on that one the words are truly indistinguishable and, if anything, physican is more precise in the medical field).

    December 18, 2007

  • You are right burntsox. Though the preference for Attorney seems to be an American trend.

    In Australia the split is between Solicitor vs. Barrister, as the profession is not fused over here.

    December 18, 2007

  • lol - I'd say "solicitor" and "barrister" BOTH sound pretentious to my American ear!

    December 18, 2007

  • What nationality is your other ear?

    December 18, 2007

  • Really? Solicitor sounds very ordinary to me. Though I'm probably just used to hearing it.

    December 18, 2007

  • Solicitor and barrister are standard for me too, as I'm familiar (well—to an only pedestrian degree!) with the English law system, within which those are the two defined branches of the profession. I'd never heard attorney till I started to come more into contact with American culture through the media.

    burntsox may be interested to know that there's a (self-referential in this case) term for such hoity-toitiness: auxesis

    December 18, 2007

  • Thank you for auxesis - that's why I come to wordie!

    And, Groucho, my other ear is tone deaf to all cultures!

    December 20, 2007