nisi prius

[ nahy-sahy -prahy-uhs, nee-see -pree-uhs ]
/ ˈnaɪ saɪ ˈpraɪ əs, ˈni si ˈpri əs /
Save This Word!

noun Law.

Also called nisi prius court . a trial court for the hearing of civil cases before a judge and jury.
British Law.
  1. a writ commanding a sheriff of a county to summon a jury and bring it to the court in Westminster on a certain day, unless the judges of assizes previously came to that county.
  2. the clause with the words “nisi prius” introducing this writ.
  3. the system of judicial circuits to which judges are assigned for local trials of civil and criminal cases.



Apostrophes can be tricky; prove you know the difference between it’s and its in this crafty quiz!
Question 1 of 12
On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

Origin of nisi prius

1300–50; Middle English <Latin: literally, unless previously, unless before
nisi-prius, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for nisi prius

nisi prius
/ (ˈpraɪəs) /


English legal history
  1. a direction that a case be brought up to Westminster for trial before a single judge and a jury
  2. the writ giving this direction
  3. trial before the justices taking the assizes
(in the US) a court where civil actions are tried by a single judge sitting with a jury, as distinguished from an appellate court
C15: from Latin: unless previously
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Hate Typos? Get Grammar Coach