Here is the meanings of these two words according to the online Cambridge English dictionary:

  • transgression: "the act or process of breaking a law or moral rule, or an example of this: (...)"
  • infringement: "an action that breaks a rule, law, etc.: (...)".

Both of them are same. Could anyone explain the key difference with examples ?

  • The difference is not (necessarily) a matter of English but of legalese. Jun 21, 2017 at 22:44

2 Answers 2


In general, one infringes upon a right, whereas one transgresses a limit or, by extension, a rule.

This distinction is not very strong, though; not seldom will you see one word used instead of the other, even to the point of interchangeability.

The lack of a strict distinction can perhaps be explained by the origins of both words. To infringe is from Latin infringo, "to break"; to transgress is from Latin transgredior, "to step over". In both cases, it is easy to imagine carrying out the action on a rule and thereby violating it. Perhaps the present meaning of infringe lies in the idea that in- in infringo should represent "in(to)", as in breaking into a house or walled garden, even though I do not believe this sense pertains to the original Latin verb.


The difference is subtle. Infringing often implies a more minor action or incident (although doesn't preclude something more serious). It also allows for lack of intent or for mere carelessness moreso than "transgression" does.

If you aren't careful, you could start infringing upon his property rights.

A "transgression", on the other hand, implies something more serious, and perhaps more intentional:

Intentionally building his garage over his neighbour's property line was a serious transgression of his neighbour's rights.

In many cases the words could be used interchangeably, but a transgression feels more serious than an infringement, in general.

  • So two sentence are wrong according to your explanation. A series of patent infringement by a competitor forced Apple to sue for protection. Cheating on a final exam is, without a doubt, a major academic transgression
    – mr.wr
    Jun 21, 2017 at 21:51
  • Further, except in a legal discussion, an infringement more often needs a preposition, as: an infringement of/upon/against…. By contrast a transgression is less uncomfortable by itself, as: his transgressions were many Jul 9, 2017 at 17:38
  • @mr.wr When a word can be used in a generał srnse, and also has a legal usage, the legal meaning has to be very specific, and so it can be a little different from general usage. That said, you can think of it this way: Someone who infringes on a patent rarely takes away all the money the patent holder was expecting to make, just some of it.
    – Spencer
    Dec 24, 2020 at 14:58

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