This question notwithstanding, where can I find a good description or explanation of the nuances and differences between





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    Justness is used so very rarely that it is difficult to discern any definite pattern of established usage that would make it different from justice (unless by justness one means the quality being just in the other sense of just). Have you ever seen both words used within the same context?
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 16:03
  • I’m voting to close this question because the "other question" was, to all intents and purposes, identical and was rightly closed.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 16:05
  • There is nothing about justness in the linked question.
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 16:51
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    The very elaborate, carefully thought-out answer posted by TaliesinMerlin clearly shows that this is not question to which the OP could have found the answer just by consulting a general-purpose dictionary. Whether somebody can post a better answer I don't know, but we should all be curious about that, and the question should be reopened to leave that possibility open.
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


Justness has a narrower set of senses than justice. Basic rule of thumb: you could refer to a person or situation's justness or justice, but people who are justices and legal systems of justice are always that and never justness.

To start with, the Oxford English Dictionary provides a bird's eye view of both words in terms of frequency and number of definitions:

  • Frequency: justness has a frequency band of 4, which "contains words which occur between 0.1 and 1.0 times per million words in typical modern English usage." These tend to be words used in specific situations that a general audience would still recognize. Justice is in frequency band 6, set between "10 and 100 times per million." So justice could be 10 to 1000 times more common than justness. That is basically what the NGram shows.
  • Number of definitions. Justice has three broad senses with nine definitions (excluding subdefinitions and phrasal definitions). Justness has one sense and three definitions. Generally number of definitions is a low-precision tool of comparison because it depends on how careful a lexicographer is being in parsing distinct senses, but a large difference with the frequency suggests justness is more limited in sense.

Justness is simple to parse. -ness when added to a noun usually means the quality of that noun. So justness in the Oxford English Dictionary is defined as "the quality of being just (in various senses)." Those senses can be summarized as

(a) applying to a situation:

2009 M. Labonte in E. A. Heinze & B. J. Steele Ethics, Authority, & War ix. 213 There is no intrinsic value in assessing the justness of war and the justness of the peace as an interconnected endeavor.

2006 W. I. Miller Eye for Eye ii. 23 One can never underestimate the basic moral and aesthetic justness of getting perfectly even.

or (b) applying to a person or god:

2001 J. Vadackumchery Police Morality 238 One must have faith in himself—in his justness and integrity.

Justice can also be used to refer to a situation or person in a way that means "the quality of being just":

2001 London Rev. Bks. 22 Feb. 30/2 Marx was..a traditional moralist just because he set questions of justice, equality and the like in their social and historical contexts.

1914 Homiletic Rev. Oct. 306/1 Luke 1:75 would bid us live in holiness and justice before God.

In these senses, either justness or justice can be used. They may have slightly different connotations depending on the speaker or listener.

Justice is also used in two senses that justness is not

(a) referring to "administration of law or equity" in several senses e.g., social justice, punishment, legal process, or Lady Justice:

2012 D. E. Beloof Victims' Rights viii. 291 Flawed evidentiary policies can thwart justice for victims of sexual violence.

2011 L. G. Fisher Full Body Wag v. 60 ‘And if the former fails to return, we could exact justice upon the latter.’ ‘String him up, you mean?’

2003 P. Brand Kings, Barons & Justices i. iii. 100 The litigants were provided with important safeguards against the lord's failure to provide justice.

or (b) referring to "an agent of the administration of law or equity" (e.g. a court judge, a magistrate, a "Justice of the Peace":

2003 J. P. Sarra Creditor Rights & Public Interest ix. 243 Canada's administrative tribunal system, in which the adjudicators are frequently not justices or lawyers but rather representative of the stakeholders at which the legislation is aimed.

2011 R. Booth et al. Money Laundering Law & Regulation iii. 59 The defendant had been convicted in the Crown Court of selling intoxicating liquor without a justices' licence.

It likely wouldn't occur to a fluent speaker to say thwart/exact/provide justness in these examples, because justness doesn't refer to the administration of law or punishment directly. Justness only describes the quality of something. One could only thwart, exact, or provide a quality of being in an extended sense, and justness doesn't have a history of usage to support that sense. Phrases like "social justness" or "corrective justness" don't really work either, as justice doesn't refer to a quality of being but a process or state. Corrective justice may pursue qualities like justness, but the process itself is justice. More trivially, we don't say things like "Justness of the Peace," and it would sound unusual to judges as justnesses. A personification would be technically possible in a literary work (Lady Justness) but not generally recognized as such.

  • Thank you for this quality answer. The detail was enlightening, and then, near the end, your sentence, "Corrective justice may pursue qualities like justness" really "sealed in" the concept for me. Justice strives to achieve justness.
    – Stewart
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 17:29
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    If one really, really wants to use the word justness, one could indeed say that justice pursues justness, but one doesn't have to make that point that way (and few people would). Justice can be a quality of a process, but it can also be a quality of a result, so one can just say that procedural justice aims at the justice of the result (i.e at justice being done).
    – jsw29
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 20:28
  • @jsw29 I agree. I was merely making the sentence for the purpose of clarifying for myself the nuances of the two words.
    – Stewart
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 20:58

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