English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I came across this phrase in an legal case relating to an ante-nuptial agreement, and was wondering what it meant exactly. The sentence is:

Agreement concluded prior to and in contemplation of marriage providing that neither party to derive any interest in or benefit from property of other either during marriage or on its termination

Is it synonymous with "in consideration of"/"in expectation of"?


share|improve this question
This is very likely jargon, so I doubt any answer is generally applicable. From context, it just looks like "while marriage was being considered." It establishes a time period. – Jeremy Nov 16 '12 at 18:42
@Jeremy: It's not that uncommon - OP's specific "prior to and in contemplation of marriage" occurs 313 times in Google Books, and there are far more if you drop the word "marriage". And it doesn't really mean "while marriage was being considered." It means "when it's fully expected". – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 1:11
thanks FumbleFingers – janexlane Nov 18 '12 at 7:43

In contemplation of means not in expectation of but with specific regard to the possibility of.

Parties expecting to marry might make or have made in the past agreements of all sorts--for instance, one party may be a vendor to the other party's firm, or they may have entered into a formal business partnership, or both may have been parties to an agreement settling a suit regarding a third party's will. At the time of those agreements they may or may not have expected to marry; but those agreements had no terms which explicitly referred to a marriage between the parties: they did not contemplate such a marriage. An ante-nuptial agreement, however, does contemplate the marriage of the parties to each other: it is executed with the intention of regulating the marriage they expect to enter into.

I have modified my first line to reflect the holding, in Cain v. Moon (1896), that a valid donatio mortis causa or deathbed gift “must have been made in contemplation, though not necessarily in expectation, of death.” [emphasis mine] That is, contemplation implies that the donor need not expect to die shortly, he must merely be considering that he may die shortly.

share|improve this answer
You could go a bit further, with specific regard to the full expectation of. I think in such legal contexts, whilst the lawyers have left themselves a possible "get-out" clause in case the marriage doesn't take place, they seriously don't expect anything to stop it when they draft things like this. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 1:16
@FumbleFingers That's doubtless what the parties mean, or they wouldn't go to the trouble and expense of drawing up the agreement; but what the phrase means is what the law cares about, that the agreement is directed towards a contingency, not a fact. – StoneyB Nov 17 '12 at 2:07
@FumbleFingers See my edit. – StoneyB Nov 17 '12 at 2:19
+1 There's a helpful WP page that you might want to link to. – coleopterist Nov 17 '12 at 4:37
Nothing is certain except death and taxes. So I guess if the law allows you to be not necessarily in expectation of death, they'd hardly expect you to be particularly sure whether you were going to marry. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '12 at 4:37

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.