[4.] recovery of goods (by someone) taken from him, upon posting of security," mid-15c.,
[3.] from Anglo-French replevin (14c.) and Anglo-Latin (13c.) replevina,
[2.] from Old French replevir (v.) "to pledge, protect, warrant,"
[1.] from re- "back, again" (see re-) + plevir, of uncertain origin; perhaps related to pledge (v.).
The corresponding verb is replevy (1550s).

What semantic notions can explain the semantic specialization of meaning from 2 to 4?

The possessor doesn't possess, and so can't "pledge, protect, warrant", the good that she must recover from the tortfeasor.

1 Answer 1


One possibility is that a security interest in tangible personal property is sometimes called a "pledge", and a re-pledge would return property subject to a chattle mortgage to the original pledgor undoing the original pledge. (Most replevin actions are brought to retake collateral or leased property.)

Another possibility, suggested by sense (4) in the original post, is that the original reference could have been to the posting of a bond as security for the action to retake the tangible personal property.

Of course, in modern legal parlance, replevin is a root word with no other underlying semantic meaning than its technical legal meaning.

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