Noscitur a sociss

Latin for ‘it is known by its associates’, noscitur a sociis is a rule of interpretation of contracts, statutes and estate documents stipulating that the meaning of an unclear word can be gathered from the context in which it is used.

For example, in the case of Foster v Diphwys Casson (1887) 18 QBD 428, a defendant had carried explosives in a cloth bag, where the law required that they be carried within a ‘case or cannister’. By interpreting the definition of ‘case’ by the words around it (specifically, the words ‘or cannister’), the court concluded that a cloth bag could not be within the statutory definition, as ‘case’ was intended to refer to an alternative to a cannister, that necessarily could provide protection and structural integrity similar to what a cannister could.