Plaintiff vs defendant

Photo of author


The words plaintiff and defendant are both legal terms and are often confused. We will look at the meanings of the words plaintiff and defendant, as well as their origins and some examples of their use in sentences.

Plaintiff describes the person who brings a civil suit in a court of law. The plaintiff is the party who must prove that they have been injured by the actions of another. The word plaintiff is only used in civil court cases, not criminal court cases. The word plaintiff is derived from the Old French word plaintif, which means miserable, wretched. In 1999, the countries of England and Wales replaced the term plaintiff with claimant.

The defendant is the person who must defend himself against a civil suit. A defendant may be a private person, a company, an institution or rarely, a government entity. Criminal proceedings must prove a person’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, while civil proceedings must only find a preponderance of evidence against the defendant. The use of the term defendant to mean a person defending himself against a civil suit first appeared in the 1400s, it is derived from the French word, défendant.


In a motion filed in Waco’s U.S. District Court, Houston attorney Lisa Brown, who represents Baylor, asks Judge Robert Pitman to sever the claims of the six plaintiffs who have filed a Title IX lawsuit against Baylor. (The Waco Tribune)

Pippa Middleton is listed as the claimant in a case listed to be heard at the High Court in London on Wednesday. (The South Wales Argus)

A specialist with the Guam Army National Guard who pleaded guilty to theft of government property in May 2014 was in the District Court of Guam yesterday for a sentencing hearing; however, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood was moved by some findings in the defendant’s presentence report. (The Guam Daily Post)