noscitur a sociis

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Legal maxim that the meaning of an unclear word or phrase is to be determined (constructed) on the basis of its context the words or phrases surrounding it. As UK judge J. Stamp put it (in the 1967 case of Bourne vs. Norwich Crematorium Ltd.), "Sentences are not mere collections of words to be taken out of the sentence, defined separately by reference to the dictionary or decided cases, and then put back into the sentence with the meaning you have assigned to them as separate words ...." Latin for, it is known by the company it keeps.


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