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

  • n. An action to recover possession or the value of property wrongfully detained.
  • n. The writ authorizing such action.
  • n. Law The act of unlawfully detaining personal property.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A legal action to reclaim goods wrongfully detained.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A person or thing detained.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In law, an old form of action, now little used, brought to recover possession of specific articles of personal property unlawfully detained.


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

Middle English detenue, from Old French, detention, from feminine past participle of detenir, to detain; see detain.


  • "To see how the English Reports effect general common law searches, just search from the front page of CommonLII for anything concerning, say, one of the forms of action (eg 'detinue near (ship or vessel)'), then display the results By Database."

    Archive 2008-12-01

  • In one breath, the court brushed aside technicality; almost in the next breath it used an ancient English form of action “detinue”.

    A History of American Law

  • A direct Action of detinue, is a personal Action of good Faith, famous, public, which is given

    John Adams diary, June 1753 - April 1754, September 1758 - January 1759

  • Poindexter brought an action of detinue against the State's treasurer to recover his desk.

    Some reminiscences,

  • The circuit and supreme courts of the several states, though the slave cases which they tried were for the most part concerned only with such dry questions as detinue, trover, bailment, leases, inheritance and reversions, in which the personal quality of the negroes was largely ignored, occasionally rendered decisions of vivid human interest even where matters of mere property were nominally involved.

    American Negro Slavery A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime

  • /1/The allegation is simply the usual allegation of actions on the case, and seems to have extended itself from the earlier declarations for damage, when case supplanted detinue and the use of the former action became universal.

    The Common Law

  • As before, the breach of duty complained of might be such damage to property as had always been sued for in that form of action, or it might be a loss by theft for which detinue would formerly have been brought, and which fell on the bailee only by reason of the bailment.

    The Common Law

  • In detinue the plea was that the plaintiff delivered the defendant a chest locked with his key, that the chattels were in the chest, and that they were taken from the defendant together with his own goods by robbery.

    The Common Law

  • We find it laid down in the Year Books that, if I deliver goods to a bailee to keep for me, and he sells or gives them to a stranger, the property is vested in the stranger by the gift, and I cannot maintain trespass against him; but that I have a good remedy against the bailee by writ of detinue (for his failure to return the goods).

    The Common Law

  • If the chattel could be returned in specie, detinue afforded no satisfaction for damage which it might have suffered through the bailee's neglect.

    The Common Law


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