Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Financial, Wikipedia.


in law, decision of a suit in a court of equityequity,
principles of justice originally developed by the English chancellor. In Anglo-American jurisprudence equitable principles and remedies are distinguished from the older system that the common law courts evolved.
..... Click the link for more information.
. It is the counterpart in equity of the judgmentjudgment,
decision of a court of law respecting the issues before it. The term ordinarily is not applied to the decree (order) of courts of equity. The outstanding characteristic of a legal judgment, in contrast to an equitable decree, is its finality and fixity; thus, except
..... Click the link for more information.
 in a court of law, although in those jurisdictions where law and equity have merged, judgment is sometimes used to include both. The difference between the two, however, is fundamental. A judgment must be unconditionally for one party or another, but a decree is adaptable to the peculiar necessities of each case and may include rights and duties of both parties. A decree may impose conditions on its enforcement upon either party. The decree may act against the person of the defendant; it is not restricted to the award of money damages. It may contain an injunctioninjunction,
in law, order of a court directing a party to perform a certain act or to refrain from an act or acts. The injunction, which developed as the main remedy in equity, is used especially where money damages would not satisfy a plaintiff's claim, or to protect personal
..... Click the link for more information.
 against the performance of certain acts. One of the most familiar of the decrees given by courts of equity is the decree of divorcedivorce,
partial or total dissolution of a marriage by the judgment of a court. Partial dissolution is a divorce "from bed and board," a decree of judicial separation, leaving the parties officially married while forbidding cohabitation.
..... Click the link for more information.
, adjudicating the dissolution of a marriagemarriage,
socially sanctioned union that reproduces the family. In all societies the choice of partners is generally guided by rules of exogamy (the obligation to marry outside a group); some societies also have rules of endogamy (the obligation to marry within a group).
..... Click the link for more information.
 and awarding alimonyalimony,
in law, allowance for support that an individual pays to his or her former spouse, usually as part of a divorce settlement. It is based on the common law right of a wife to be supported by her husband, but in the United States, the Supreme Court in 1979 removed its
..... Click the link for more information.
. Decrees are enforced by proceedings for contemptcontempt,
in law, interference with the functioning of a legislature or court. In its narrow and more usual sense, contempt refers to the despising of the authority, justice, or dignity of a court.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of court.



(Russian, dekret), the name given to a legal act. In ancient Rome the acts of the Senate and later of the emperor were known as decrees. After the French Revolution the acts of the Convention and other legislative bodies of the French Republic were called decrees. Today decrees are acts of the head of state in France and in a number of other countries, particularly in African states where the French legal system was adopted. Decrees, which usually have the force of law, often replace laws.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia the legislative acts of congresses of the Soviets, of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee and of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR were issued in the form of decrees—for example, the decrees on peace, on land, and on the eight-hour working day. Under the Constitution of the USSR of 1924 the right to issue decrees was granted to the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, to the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR, and to the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR. The Constitution of the USSR of 1936 does not provide for the issuing of legislative acts called decrees. In some European socialist countries decrees are acts issued by the highest bodies of state power, for example, the acts of the Council of State of the Polish People’s Republic.



(postanovlenie), in the USSR:

(1) An act by the highest organs of state power—the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the supreme soviets of the Union and autonomous republics—ratifying a report or providing a statement on fulfillment of the state budget for the preceding year or execution of decrees of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. The appointment of ministers and the election of members of the Supreme Court are also ratified by decrees of the supreme soviets.

(2) An administrative act issued by the highest executive and administrative bodies of state power—the Council of Ministers of the USSR and the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics. Within their jurisdictions, these bodies issue decrees on the basis of and in execution of the laws and decrees of the presidia of the supreme soviets. The Central Committee of the CPSU and the Council of Ministers of the USSR issue joint decrees on key political and economic questions. These joint decrees are binding for soviet and party organizations. Joint decrees are also issued by the central committees of the Union republics and by the councils of ministers of the Union and autonomous republics. In certain legally stipulated cases, decrees may also be issued by other bodies. For example, decrees imposing administrative penalties are adopted by the administrative commissions of the raion and city soviets of working people’s deputies.

(3) An act that formalizes a decision of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of the USSR, the plenums or presidia of the supreme courts of the Union republics, or the presidia of other courts, as well as all decisions rendered by a judge. The plenums of the Supreme Court of the USSR and of the supreme courts of the Union republics issue decrees in which they provide guidelines for the application of existing law in court cases and organizational matters.


1. an edict, law, etc., made by someone in authority
2. an order or judgment of a court made after hearing a suit, esp in matrimonial proceedings
References in classic literature ?
Let a decree issue declaring ingenuity a capital offence.
Years passed, and in vain the Fighting Groups strove to execute their decree.
The oligarchs themselves were compelled to listen to the decrees of the Groups, and often, when they disobeyed, were punished by death--and likewise with the subordinates of the oligarchs, with the officers of the army and the leaders of the labor castes.
You force me to remind you," he said, "of a certain decree - a decree of expulsion passed five years ago, and of which I presume due notification was given to you.
Human or animal, the mystical brow is as that great golden seal affixed by the German emperors to their decrees.
He said, "it was common, when two YAHOOS discovered such a stone in a field, and were contending which of them should be the proprietor, a third would take the advantage, and carry it away from them both;" which my master would needs contend to have some kind of resemblance with our suits at law; wherein I thought it for our credit not to undeceive him; since the decision he mentioned was much more equitable than many decrees among us; because the plaintiff and defendant there lost nothing beside the stone they contended for: whereas our courts of equity would never have dismissed the cause, while either of them had any thing left.
For their decrees are like the others' edicts; their demagogues like the others' flatterers: but their greatest resemblance consists in the mutual support they give to each other, the flatterer to the tyrant, the demagogue to the people: and to them it is owing that the supreme power is lodged in the votes of the people, and not in the laws; for they bring everything before them, as their influence is owing to their being supreme whose opinions they entirely direct; for these are they whom the multitude obey.
If, therefore, a democracy is to be reckoned a free state, it is evident that any such establishment which centres all power in the votes of the people cannot, properly speaking, be a democracy: for their decrees cannot be general in their extent.
There are men whom a merciful Providence has undoubtedly ordained to a single life, but who from wilfulness or through circumstances they could not cope with have flown in the face of its decrees.
At that time the two famous decrees were being prepared that so agitated society- abolishing court ranks and introducing examinations to qualify for the grades of Collegiate Assessor and State Councilor- and not merely these but a whole state constitution, intended to change the existing order of government in Russia: legal, administrative, and financial, from the Council of State down to the district tribunals.
centuries to discover that his own conduct and decrees were
Never had the impossibility of his position in the world's eyes, and his wife's hatred of him, and altogether the might of that mysterious brutal force that guided his life against his spiritual inclinations, and exacted conformity with its decrees and change in his attitude to his wife, been presented to him with such distinctness as that day.