Puisne (/ˈpjuːni/; from Old French puisné, modern puîné, later born, younger (and thence, inferior); Lat. postea, afterwards, and natus, born) is a legal term of art used mainly in British English[1] meaning "inferior in rank". It is pronounced like the word puny. That word, in the anglicized spelling, has become an adjective meaning weak or undersized.[2]

The judges and barons of the common law courts at Westminster, other than those having a distinct title, were called puisne. By the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1877, a "puisne judge" is deemed a judge of the High Court other than the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of England, the Master of the Rolls, the Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and their successors respectively.[3]

Puisne courts existed as lower courts in the early stages in the judiciary in British North America, in particular Upper Canada and Lower Canada. The justices of the Supreme Court of Canada other than the Chief Justice are still referred to as puisne justices.

See also

Look up puisne in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/puisne
  2. "Today's Word: puisne". Logophilius. 15 June 2009.
  3. See the Senior Courts Act 1981, section 4.
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