Regarding the Trayvon Martin case that took place in Sanford, Florida, which became a worldwide topic, AP News (March 26) quoted Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP in “Meet the Press” saying;

“Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law does not apply in this case. The Sanford Police Department misconstrued the Stand-Your-Ground law.

jargondatabase.com defines Stand-Your-Ground law as;

A law which places no obligation on a potential victim of crime to retreat and call police. The potential victim is instead allowed to respond to force with force even if flight is a possibility.

Considering tongue-biting scrupulousness of legal terms in general, “Stand-Your-Ground” law sounds very colloquial to me as though a nickname to something.

Is it an orthodox or acknowledged legal term? If not, what is the orthodox nomenclature used in court?

How different is it from "self-defense"? What is meant by the word, “Stand-Your-Ground”, and what is the origin of this word?

Addendum: I found the following statement in the NYT article titled ‘Fugitive Slave Mentality’ (March, 27)

Before he temporarily stepped down from his position last week as chief of the Sanford, Fla., police department, Bill Lee Jr., gave an explanation of his decision not to arrest George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. Lee said he had no reason to doubt Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense.

This tempts me to think “Stand-your ground” analogous to self-defense.

  • 1
    For the record, the organization is the NAACP (often read as "N double-A C P"), not the "NWACP."
    – jwodder
    Mar 28, 2012 at 1:27
  • Intending to show the law is working, a USA Today article on Florida's Stand-Your-Ground (not in-your-ground) law comments: "the rate of violent crime in the state deceased by 23% from 2005 to 2010, according to FBI statistics". Mar 28, 2012 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


Daniel's answer is good but I disagree a little about it being an "official and legal term". You won't open up a law book and find a section titled "Stand Your Ground Law". It's a legalese phrase that folks use to describe an actual law in terms that the average person will understand. The actual law may or may not use the words "stand your ground" in the legal text.

For example, Alabama's "Stand Your Ground" law is officially Code Alabama Code 13A-3-23(b) and does use that specific phrase:

"A person who ... is in any place where he or she has the right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground."

Kentucky's Revised Statute 503.080 uses different wording, but would still be considered a "Stand Your Ground" law:

A person does not have a duty to retreat if the person is in a place where he or she has a right to be.

  • How different is it from "self-defense"?
    – Mazura
    Mar 1, 2015 at 22:25
  • 1
    @Mazura - That's more of a legal question than an English language question, and I am not a lawyer. They are related but different. Here is some info for you though.
    – Lynn
    Mar 3, 2015 at 6:18

It's actually Stand-your-ground, and it is an official and legal term. It's not uncommon for legalese to adopt colloquialisms (e.g. No child left behind) and assign them legal meanings. Wikipedia says:

A stand-your-ground law states that a person may use deadly force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat, without an obligation to retreat first.

To stand one's ground is a common idiom which means:

stand one's ground and hold one's ground
to stand up for one's rights; to resist an attack. The lawyer tried to confuse me when I was giving testimony, but I managed to stand my ground. some people were trying to crowd us out of the line for tickets, but we held our ground.

Etymology: based on the literal meaning of stand your ground (to refuse to move back during a fight)

  • 1
    My mistake. I corrected "stand-in-your-ground" in the question. Mar 28, 2012 at 21:06

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