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When analyzing a law, one can discuss the "subjects" of the law; e.g., the subjects of a law that imposes a sales tax will be the merchants and/or buyers. But how would one refer to the substance of the law itself as a distinct entity? Using my previous example, I'm looking for a word that would complete this sentence: "The __ of this law is the imposition of a sales tax." The word "substance" seems a little too broad for this purpose, as the subjects of the law are also part of its substance.

[Note: I'm well aware that the above sentence could easily be reworded as something like "The law imposes a sales tax"; it's just an example to explain what kind of technical term I'm trying to find.]

  • You could talk about the "text" or the "reading" of the law. – Robusto Sep 21 '12 at 15:50
  • The subjects are not included in the law's "text" or "reading"? – kurkevan Sep 21 '12 at 15:57
  • ratio: n. In civil law. an account; a cause, or the giving of judgment therein. How about "ratio"? – user19148 Sep 21 '12 at 16:05
  • @kurkevan: Are you talking about an abstraction of the law's reading? If so then perhaps the word "object" is what you want. "The object of this law is the imposition of a sales tax." – Robusto Sep 21 '12 at 16:09
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    "the ratio of the law" has 4,450,000 hits on Google Search; while, alas, "the ratio of this law" has only six hits. – user19148 Sep 21 '12 at 16:20
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The __ of this law is the imposition of a sales tax.

I would suggest one of essence, pith, gist, purpose or perhaps even letter.

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  • ratio: n. In civil law. an account; a cause, or the giving of judgment therein. coleopterist, how about "ratio"? – user19148 Sep 21 '12 at 16:08
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    @Carlo_R. - Isn't this English.SE? :) – kurkevan Sep 21 '12 at 16:18
  • "Essence" is pretty good! – kurkevan Sep 21 '12 at 16:26

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