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I have jury duty today, and I'm trying to figure out how I might say that in Latin.

For the drawing of names it seems to me that sortítió is probably the best word.

For "jury," though, a few options strike me, one following the historical function and one following the language. In the Roman Republic, members of the jury were called júdicés ("judges") and the trial was presided over by a præator urbánus ("city magistrate," for want of a more exact term). We can see this term for jury members in the first sentence of Pró Rosció Amerínó:

Credo ego vos, iudices, mirari, quid sit, quod, cum tot summi oratores hominesque nobilissimi sedeant, ego potissimum surrexerim, is, qui neque aetate neque ingenio neque auctoritate sim cum his, qui sedeant, comparandus.

So if we look to what the function of Roman júdicés was, then we get júdicum sortítió, and we'd call the judge, I guess, a prætor. This seems weird, given how exactly júdex translates into "judge."

If we let the modern judge be called júdex instead, though, what's left for the jury? It occurs to me that cónsilium is a possibility, again as evidenced by Pró Sextó Amerínó

Qui ex civitate in senatum propter dignitatem, ex senatu in hoc consilium delecti estis propter severitatem, ab his hoc postulare homines sicarios atque gladiatores, non modo ut supplicia vitent, quae a vobis pro maleficiis suis metuere atque horrere debent, verum etiam ut spoliis ex hoc iudicio ornati auctique discedant?

I understand that to a certain extent the choice of júdicum sortítió and cónsilií sortítió is a matter of one's philosophy of translation. But is there one that living Latinists use? Or is there an even better choice (for either word) that just isn't occurring to me?

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    I just checked the Magna Carta. Alas, I don't think it has a word for jury. Article 39 has "…nisi per legale judicium parium suorum", which I believe means "except by the lawful judgement of his peers". – Ben Kovitz Jun 16 '16 at 22:30
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For jury, Vikipædia has iurata. That's the root of jury, even (via French juree, also in the form of a participle).

I believe its older, primary meaning is "sworn", that is, a group of people who are sworn in.

See also Du Cange, which defines iurata as "numerus duodecim legalium hominum juratorum, per quos omnis fere facti probatio fit, et ex quorum veredicto judex sententiam suam conficit et profert."


For jury duty, I think iurata's competing meaning of "sworn" prevents it from serving to make this phrase. Henry Beard offers officium iudicale, though perhaps this could also be understood as a "judicial office" in general, as here (that has judicialis but the same law is quoted elsewhere as judicalis—but either way, what's that doing modifying a neuter noun?).

Another approach is to speak of jury "service". I'm not sure, but I think jury "duty" (as a civic obligation) is much less common in countries with a civil-law tradition than in the common-law countries. If so, it might be difficult to find established Latin usage for jury duty. Spanish has servicio de iurado, as in this Seattle brochure for jurors. I don't think we can roll that back to Latin, though, since servitium iudicale would mean "judicial servitude". (Well, I suppose you could say that if you wanted to describe jury duty quite disparagingly.)

Well, I'm going with officium iudicale.

  • Thank you! I generally find Vikipædia untrustworthy, but from wyomingcatholiccollege.com/faculty-pages/patrick-owens/lexicon/… I see that "jury selection" is júrátórum éléctió. – Joel Derfner Jun 16 '16 at 22:58
  • About your edit—what difficulty do you see in Du Cange's juratorum electio (from the noun jurator, juratoris)? – Joel Derfner Jun 17 '16 at 7:39
  • Unless it's from juratus, which maybe makes more sense. – Joel Derfner Jun 18 '16 at 16:04
  • @JoelDerfner Maybe I'm answering a different question than you meant to ask. I understand juratorum electio to mean the process of choosing the jurors (and it sounds pretty good to me!). I was trying to translate "jury duty", which can be understood two ways in English: (1) the obligation of citizens to serve on juries; (2) the service performed by jurors. Jury selection is something you're involved with as a juror, but it's not equivalent to jury duty. Did I misunderstand your question (or your comment)? – Ben Kovitz Jun 18 '16 at 19:25
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    @JoelDerfner Interesting. I've never seen "jury duty" used to mean only the selection process, but I just looked at Wiktionary and it gives only that meaning! That strikes me as weird usage, since it excludes actually serving on a jury. Books and laws, AFAIK, mean by "jury duty" serving as a juror, the selection process being only the first step. But, clearly you're not alone. Maybe this is the result of most people's experience: not getting selected, so "jury duty" = waiting in the pool. :) – Ben Kovitz Jun 18 '16 at 20:43

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