If there is no general word covering both meanings, separate words are also fine.


One of the obligations of Shia clerics is to manage ... properties or responsibilities.

I have thought of "abandoned" but that doesn't precisely mean what I wrote in the question title.


Thanks for your contributions! For more elaboration, this is related to a concept in Shia Jurisprudence called "hisba" which refers to obligations and responsibilities that have not been assumed by or are not naturally designated to any specific individual (like taking care of an orphan, an abandoned property, protecting ecosystem, etc) which then have to be taken care of by the clerics. I' looking for a word that can cover all these examples. I am thinking of adjectives in the vein of "stewardless," "ownerless," "un-owned," and "custody-less" etc but one that is probably more common and sound. And oh! I could just think of "unmanaged" or you may suggest a better one! :)

  • 1
    In the UK it would be known as unclaimed property, and there is a body of law concerning how it can be claimed or registered.
    – WS2
    Dec 10, 2016 at 8:34
  • 1
    If the property was once owned and now has no traceable owner, then WS2 is on the right track; if the property was never owned by an individual but is a resource for everyone, then BoldBen has the right idea. In the US, certain responsibilities are ceded to the state; all others are personal, i.e,. retained by individuals. So there would be no abandoned, abstract responsibilities for clerics (or any other body) to manage, but I suppose you could mean responsibility for the mentioned properties.
    – deadrat
    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:12

6 Answers 6


The second definition of commons in the Oxford Dictionary On line is

Land or resources belonging to or affecting the whole of a community

This seems to be roughly what you are thinking about, at least in terms of property.

The same dictionary has a definition of Common Property as

A thing or things held jointly: for example ‘the atmosphere is the common property of every nation on earth’

The Encyclopaedia Britannica also has this definition of the common good

That which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society.

In your example sentence you could use the term communal for which is more difficult to find simple online references (partly, perhaps, because modern, western society places more emphasis on the individual than the community leading to the Tragedy of the Commons becoming an evermore widespread problem).

  • Thank you! "Commons" seems to be the closest suggestion to the concept I mentioned in the revised version of my question, but I wonder if this is a familiar meaning outside UK.
    – infatuated
    Dec 10, 2016 at 9:40
  • @infatuated "Commons" is commonly used in American English as well. The word is also pretty self-explanatory, so I don't think you'd have a problem using it.
    – Kat
    Dec 10, 2016 at 19:48

In the UK it would be known as unclaimed property, and there is a body of law determining how it can be claimed or otherwise dealt with.

As regards responsibility I would suggest it would be an unassumed responsibility.


Forsaken can be used for both. It is handy because it can be expanded for specificity. "A land forsaken of game". "A people forsaken of a nation's protection." I like it here because it conveys as sense of irregular circumstances. Property that would ordinarily be owned, or a responsibility that would normally be taken up, is in this case forsaken. It also tends to convey societal or ethical concern as opposed to merely physical abandonment.

Abandon, desert, forsake mean to leave without intending to return. Abandon suggests that the thing or person left may be helpless without protection . Desert implies that the object left may be weakened but not destroyed by one's absence . Forsake suggests an action more likely to bring impoverishment or bereavement to that which is forsaken than its exposure to physical dangers .

"Forsake." Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2016.

  • I like this among all the answers offered so far. +1. Dec 11, 2016 at 5:34

As suggested already, a property can be unclaimed. A responsibility can be


Collins, via thefreedictionary.com, defines it:

  1. not assigned or appointed to a position
  2. not attributed to someone or something
  3. not allotted or granted to any one party


But I have a term that I think you could use to talk about either concept. You would use it literally for property, and figuratively for responsibility. I hope you don't mind that it is a noun, not an adjective.

No man's land (sometimes spelled "no-man's land")

American Heritage says

  1. Land under dispute by two opposing parties, especially the field of battle between the lines of two opposing entrenched armies.
  2. An area of uncertainty or ambiguity.
  3. An unclaimed or unowned piece of land.

Random House's definition is similar, with meaning 2 written in an interesting way:

  1. an area where guidelines and authority are not clear.


An example of the figurative use:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull emerged from the no-man’s land left by the election to finally accept responsibility for the Coalition’s campaign.



The common legal term for property that is not owned by anyone is ownerless property.

When someone dies with no will or known family, their property passes to the Crown as ownerless property (or ‘bona vacantia’). It can be any kind of property, like buildings, money or personal possessions.


Here, property means both movable and immovable goods such as land and real estate.

For responsibility, I think unassumed works fine as @WS suggested.


See derelict, defined by Merriam Webster as

no longer cared for or used by anyone.

abandoned especially by the owner or occupant.

  • 1
    google.co.uk/… derelict buildings normally need to be pulled down because they are often unsafe. I would not recommend this word, despite its definition, in the context suggested by the OP.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 10, 2017 at 7:43

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