1. What semantic notion connects the bolded meaning beneath with all the others that aren't related to recompense? To me, nouns like remittance or solatium (if we prefer an uncommon term) fit the bolded meaning more intuitively.

mid-14c., consideracioun, "a beholding, looking at," also "a keeping in mind," also "contemplation, reflection,"
from Old French consideracion (12c., Modern French considération) and directly from Latin considerationem (nominative consideratio) "consideration, contemplation, reflection," noun of action from past-participle stem of considerare "to look at closely, observe" (see consider).

Meaning "a taking into account, act of paying attention to" is from late 14c.; that of "examination, observation" is from early 15c.. Sense of "thoughtful or sympathetic regard" is from c. 1400. Meaning "that which is or should be considered" is from late 15c. Meaning "something given in payment" (as recompense for service) is from c. 1600.

  1. Which semantic shift is this?

The bolded meaning looks related to meaning of 'consideration' in English contract law. See Paul Richards, Law of Contract (13 edn 2017), pp. 68 Bottom-69:

[...] it has become preferable today to think in terms of consideration amounting to a claimant buying a defendant’s promise by performing some act in return for it. Alternatively, the claimant may purchase the defendant’s promise by the furnishing of a counter-promise. This modern approach was summed up by Sir Frederick Pollock (1950) in Principles of Contract, where he defined consideration as:

An act or forbearance of one party, or the promise thereof, is the price for which the promise of the other is bought, and the promise thus given for value is enforceable.

This definition was approved by the House of Lords in Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. Ltd v Selfridge and Co. Ltd [1915] AC 847 and is regarded as being more representative of the doctrine of consideration in the modern commercial contract than the nineteenth-century concept of benefit and detriment.

  • The term's use in law has its roots in common law decision making by English courts going back to long before the 1700s. I don't know precisely how.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 6, 2018 at 15:18
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    FYI it's also not a question about linguistics. It might be a question about legal history, tracing first attestations in common law documents.
    – user6726
    Oct 6, 2018 at 16:03
  • The answer may be contained in J.H. Baker "Origins of the “Doctrine of Consideration, 1535-1585", referring to Lucy v. Walwyn (1561).
    – user6726
    Oct 6, 2018 at 16:38
  • Read this article: books.google.com/…
    – user6726
    Oct 6, 2018 at 17:12
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    The question as to how the specific legal meaning of "consideration", in the sense of "something given in payment", has shifted, would be a question of history and thus on-topic. However, it is probably too broad to ask about it across all jurisdictions. The question of how "consideration" came to be used i the sense of "payment" in the first place, or what linguistic phenomenon this exemplifies, is one of etymology and I would argue it is not on-topic. I don't know if it's linguistics per se, but it is certainly language. I would suggest taking it to English.SE. Oct 24, 2018 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


Ames reviews the doctrine and the rise of "consideration" in "The History of Assumpsit. I. Express Assumpsit", stating that after Henry VIII, "it became the practice, in pleading, to lay all assumpsits as made in consideratione of the detriment or debt". A person assumes (assumpsit) an obligation for some cause (causa). The assumption of obligation is made having considered the debts or detriment. Once "consideration" becomes a technical legal concept (as it did in the 17th c.), what remains variable is the prevailing doctrine associated with the term.

Pollock in 'Afterthoughts on consideration' suggests the conceptual development was from general contemplation, to deliberate decision, then including the grounds for a decision, and finally and most relevant to the current legal concept "that which induces a grant or promise'.

  • +1. Thanks. Where did you find a PDF of 'Afterthoughts on consideration'? Or how else did you read it?
    – user89
    Jan 12, 2019 at 17:54
  • At this point, I don't remember how – generic Google-fu, I guess. Pollock is one of those "names" in history of English law.
    – user6726
    Jan 12, 2019 at 18:44
  • Thanks again. Can you please elaborate the semantic shift: (1) from 'general contemplation' (which falls under the general meaning of 'consideration') to 'deliberate decision' (which doesn't fall under it)? (2) from 'deliberate decision' to 'the grounds for a decision'?
    – user89
    Jan 28, 2019 at 6:55
  • Can you please respond in (by editing) your answer? A chain of comments is more cumbersome to read.
    – user89
    Jan 28, 2019 at 6:56
  • I found the PDF of 'Afterthoughts on consideration' at heinonline.org/HOL/….
    – user89
    Feb 26, 2019 at 1:20

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