Legal Definition and Related Resources of Lien

Meaning of Lien

A charge upon property of another either real or personal as security for the payment of a debt or performance of a duty in priority to the general debts of the owner . A tie that binds property to a debt or claim for it; satisfaction , as a right to possess and retain property until a charge attaching to it is paid or discharged; a charge imposed upor specific property for the performance of ar act; frequently used as synonymous with ; charge or encumbrance upon a thing. See assembly of God v Songster, 178 Kan. 678. 290 P.2d 1057. At common law a lien was used strictly ir relation to the right to retain possession o: personalty of another in satisfaction of demand . See Caye Co. v Milledgevil Banking Co., 91 Ga.App. 644, 86 S. E.2c 717; Peck v Jones, 7 How. (U.S.) 612, 12 L.Ed. 841. This lien arose only if the cla mant had exclusive possession of the subject matter of the lien and was lost upon h parting with possession. Kerslen v Black 235 Ark. 991, 364 S. W.2d 150. An equitable lien , recognized in most jurisdictions, is a right, not recognized at law, to have a fund or specific property, or its proceeds , applied in whole or in part to the payment of a particular debt or class of debts. See United States v Adamant Co., (C.A.9. Cal.) 197 F.2d 1; Hill v Hill, 185 Kan. 389,345 P.2d 1015. The title and possession of the debtor is not affected by an equitable lien, which is a floating security till a decree or judgment is rendered subjecting property to the lien. Loomis v Priest, (C.A.5. Ga.)274 F.2d513. under the bankruptcy Act, 11 U.S.C. 101(28) the word lien is defined as a charge against or interest in property to secure payment of a debt or performance of an obligation .

Lien Alternative Definition

A French word which originally signified a string, tie, or band, and in the metaphorical sense in which the law now uses it, it signifies the hold or claim which one person has upon the property of another as security for the satisfaction of a debt, duty or demand, by which he may, if in possession of the property, detain it until the same is satisfied. 2 South. (N. J.) 441. Actual possession by the lien claimant being essential. 62 Barb. (N. Y.) 323; 26 Wend. (N. Y.) 467. The term may be defined as a charge imposed on specific property, real or personal, by which it is made security for the performance of an act. 4 Cliff. (U. S.) 225. In every case in which property, either real or personal, is charged with the payment of a debt or duty, every such charge may be denominated a lien on the property. It differs from an estate in or title to the property, as it may be discharged at any time by payment of the sum for which the lien attaches. It differs from a mortgage in the fact that a mortgage is made and the property delivered, or otherwise, for the express purpose of security; while the lien attaches as incidental to the main purpose of the bailment, or, as in case of a judgment, by mere act of the law, without any act of the party. In this general sense, the word is commonly used by English and American law writers to include those preferred or privileged claims given by statute or by admiralty law, and which seem to have been adopted from the civil law, as well as the security existing at common law, to which the term more exactly applies. Liens are divided, in rei eot to their origin and nature, into common law, civil law, equitable, maritime, and statutory.
(1) Common-law liens. As distinguished from the other classes, they consist in a mere right to retain possession until the debt OF charge is paid. In the case of a factor, an apparent exception exists, as he is allowed a lien on the proceeds of goods sold, as well as on the goods themselves. But this seems to result from the relation of the parties, and the purposes of the bailment; to effectuate which, and at the same time give a security to the factor, the law considers the possession, or right to possession, of the proceeds, the same thing as the possession of the goods themselves. A particular lien is a right to retain the property of another on account of labor employed or money expended on that specific property. Whit. Liens, 9. A general lien is a right to retain the property of another on account of a general balance due from the owner. 3 Bos. & P. 494.
(2) Civil-law liens. The civil law embraces, under the head of mortgages and privilege, the peculiar securities which, in the common and maritime law, and equity, are termed liens. In regard to privilege, Domat says: We do not reckon in the number of privileges the preference which the creditor has on the movables that have been given him in a pawn, and which are in his custody. The privilege of a creditor is the distinguishing right which the nature of his credit gives him, and which makes him to be preferred before other creditors, even those who are prior in time, and who have mortgages. Domat. Civ. Law, pt. 1, lib. iii. tit. i. 8 v. These privileges are of two kinds: One gives a preference on all the goods, vrtthout any particular assignment on any one thing; the other gives to the creditors their security on certain things, and not on the other goods.
(3) Equitable liens. Such as exist in equity, and of which courts of fequity alone take cognizance. A lien is neither a jus in re nor a jus ad rem. It is not property in the thing, nor does it constitute a right of action for the thing. It more properly constitutes a charge upon the thing. In regard to these liens, it may be generally stated that they arise ftom constructive trusts. They are, therefore, wholly independent of the possession of the thing to which they are attached as an incumbrance, and they can be enforced only in courts of equity. Story, Eq. Jur. § 1217. An equitable lien on a sale of realty is very different from a lien at law, for it operates after the possession has been changed, and is available by way of charge instead of detainer. Adams, Eq. Jur. 127.
(4) Maritime liens. Maritime liens do not Include or require possession. The word lien is used in maritime law, not in the strict legal sense in which we understand it in courts of common law, in which case there could be no lien where there was no possession, actual or constructive; but to express, as if by analogy, the nature of claims which neither presuppose nor originate in possession. 22 Eng. Law & Eq. 62. See 15 Bost. Law Rep. 555; 16 Best. Law Rep. 1, 264; 17 Bost. Law Rep. 93, 421. A distinction is made in the United States between qualified maritime liens, which depend upon possession, and absolute maritime liens, which do not require nor depend upon possession. 7 How. (U. S.) 729.
(6) Statutory liens. Under this head it is convenient to consider some of those liens which subsist at common law, but have been extensively modified by statutory regulations, as well as those which subsist entirely by force of statutory regulations. The principal liens of this class are judgment liens, and liens of materialmen and builders. Liens, whether common-law, equitable, or statutory, are either conventional, i. e., by express agreement of the parties, or by operation of law, by legal implication from the acts of parties,

Financial Definition of Lien

A security interest in one or more assets that is granted to lenders in connection with secured debt financing.

Lien Legal Definition

A claim which a person has upon the property of another as security for a debt owned to the lienholder.

Synonyms of Lien


  • charge
  • charge imposed on specific property
  • claim
  • claim on property
  • debt
  • hold on property
  • hold upon the property of another
  • incumbrance
  • indebtedness
  • indebtment
  • liability
  • obligation
  • pledge
  • property right
  • real security
  • right to enforce charge upon property
  • security
  • security on property
  • stake
  • Associated Concepts: agricultural lien
  • artisan’s lien
  • attorney’s lien
  • builder’s lien
  • carrier’s lien
  • commonlaw lien
  • concurrent lien
  • contractor’s lien
  • discharge of lien
  • equitable lien
  • factor’s lien
  • general lien
  • judgment lien
  • junior lien
  • landlord’s lien
  • mechanic’s lien
  • possessory lien
  • prior lien
  • priority of a lien
  • statutory lien
  • superior lien
  • vendor’s lien

Definition of Lien in the Free Online Notary Dictionary

A Legal Right Or Security Attached To Real Estate Or Personal Property Until The Payment Of Some Debt, Obligation, Or Duty.

Find similar definitions of the Lien concept in the Notary Dictionary, to be used to allow for comparison of legal terms meanings.

Related Entries of Lien in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Lien in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Lien in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Lien in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Lien in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

Related Legal Terms

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This definition of Lien is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

Vocabularies (Semantic Web Information)


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Lien in the United States

Lien in Connecticut

A Lien has been defined as: ‘a hold or a claim which one person has upon the property of another as a security for some debt or charge. It is a qualified right which in certain cases may be exercised over the property of another.’ Parmanand v. Capewell Components, LLC, 289 F.Supp.2d (D.Conn.2003).

English Spanish Translation of Lien

Derecho de retención

Find other English to Spanish translations from the Pocket Spanish English Legal Dictionary (print and online), the English to Spanish to English dictionaries (like Lien) and the Word reference legal translator.


See Also

  • Law Dictionaries.
  • Title Search.
  • Lien in Law Enforcement

    Main Entry: Law Enforcement in the Legal Dictionary. This section provides, in the context of Law Enforcement, a partial definition of lien.


    See Also

    • Law Enforcement Officer
    • Police Work
    • Law Enforcement Agency

    Further Reading

    Lien Definition (in the Accounting Vocabulary)

    The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants offers the following definition of Lien in a way that is easy for anybody to understand: CREDITOR’s claim against property. For example a MORTGAGE is a lien against a house.

    Meaning of Lien in the U.S. Legal System

    Definition of Lien published by the National Association for Court Management: A legal claim against another person’s property as security for a debt. A lien does not convey ownership of the property, but gives the lien holder a right to have his or her debt satisfied out of the proceeds of the property if the debt is not otherwise paid.

    Concept of Lien in the context of Real Property

    A short definition of Lien: An encumbrance against property for money, either voluntary or involuntary. All liens are encumbrances but all encumbrances are not liens.

    Concept of Lien in the context of Real Property

    A short definition of Lien: An encumbrance against property for money, either voluntary or involuntary. All liens are encumbrances but all encumbrances are not liens.




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