RunSensible’s Legal Dictionary

Your Guide to Clear and Concise Legal Definitions

Legal Dictionary


In the legal context, “dicta” (singular: “dictum”) refers to statements made by a judge in a legal opinion that are not essential to the decision reached in the case. These are comments or observations made by the judge that go beyond what is necessary to decide the specific legal issues presented in the case. Dicta are considered non-binding in subsequent cases and do not create legal precedents. Its opposite is “ratio dicidendi” or “the reason for the decision.”
Legal opinions typically consist of two main parts:

  1. Ratio decidendi (Ratio): This is the essential or critical part of the decision that establishes the legal principle or rule necessary to decide the case. The ratio decidendi is a binding precedent and must be followed in similar cases.
  2. Obiter dictum (Obiter): This is the peripheral or incidental part of the decision that includes comments, opinions, or observations by the judge that are not crucial to the decision. Obiter dicta are considered dicta and are not binding in future cases.

In all common law countries, legal practitioners carefully analyze court decisions to identify the ratio decidendi and distinguish it from obiter dicta to understand the binding precedent set by a particular case. The ratio decidendi, or the essential reasoning behind the decision, is what creates a binding precedent. On the other hand, statements or comments made by the judge that are unnecessary to decide the case are considered dicta and are not binding in future cases. This helps in determining how the law should be applied in subsequent cases.

Articles & News for Law Professionals

Go to Top