Why not use "immune", "exempt", or "unaccountable" rather than the awkward phrase "hold harmless" in legal documents?

Is there historical context for the use of this language?

  • 1
    Historical context? What else but legal formulas that held up in court yesterday? There is only history to blame for legalese like Time is of the essence. Of course if you deliver a wedding cake slightly late, a day after the wedding, then you are in breach of contract. Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 19:01
  • Legal writing depends on precise use of words, not pretty or modish use of words. You don't vary words just for the sake of it; you want to use the same words for the same meaning, or else people will ask why you changed it.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 19:33
  • to hold harmless is only used in legal English, particularly in contracts where they are saying a person or company will not be liable for something; they will be held harmless. To absolve of responsibility: thetrcompany.com/en/…
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 19:42
  • @Lambie Right, but why not state "Company X will not be liable" instead of "Company X will be held harmless", which seems unclear and isn't grammatically correct.
    – RobertF
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 20:04
  • 1
    Because the idea of holding refers to a proceeding or situation: The courts "hold" this or that. You can read the full definition in Black's Law Dictionary. It's like: I hold you responsible for X. Then, it would have to be shown to be true.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 14, 2022 at 20:08


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