In the Magna Carta, article 1, it says

  1. In primis concessisse Deo et hac presenti carta nostra confirmasse, pro nobis et heredibus nostris in perpetuum quod Anglicana ecclesia libera sit, et habeat jura sua integra, et libertates suas illesas;

We couldn't find a dictionary entry for illesas, or any recognizable form of it, such as illesus, in any of the references we tried (Perseus, Whitaker's Words, Cassell's, Wiktionary). The closest thing we found was the Italian word illeso, which means 'unhurt, unharmed, undamaged'. (We found Illesas [capitalized] on Perseus in a work by Carrara, but that context didn't shed much light.)

It would be plausible to assume that the Italian word comes from a Latin word with similar meaning, so that illesas in the Magna Carta means something like this ('that the English church may be free, and have ... her liberties unharmed'). But we'd like to have something more definite. Maybe there's another form of the word that is in most references?

1 Answer 1


Having found the Italian word illeso, we searched for etymology of that word and found an Italian etymology entry, which said that the word was from Latin illaesus (and referenced laesus and ledere).

The word illaesus is found in the usual Latin references ('uninjured, inviolate'). In fact Whitaker's Words mentions,

Word mod e/ae
An internal 'e' might be rendered by 'ae'

So, lesson learned there: look for spelling variations like this. (It actually turned out that the one of us who initially searched Whitaker's Words for illesas did find this entry, but didn't recognize it as being the right word.)

  • 3
    Note that in the same sentence, presenti has undergone the same medieval make-over (as has “medieval,” by the way). Oct 11, 2022 at 19:45

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