At the conclusion of a (Spanish) transcription of legal proceedings, the following text appears:

Ejecutoriado que sea fallo, confiérase copia certificada para que sea subinscrito en el Registro Civil.

I can't quite make sense of the English:

Executed that it be judgment [failure?], confer it certified copy so that it be recorded in the Civil Register.

Note the pervasive use of the subjunctive mood, plus the impersonal (formal) imperative.

I get the basic meaning, but I seem to be tripping on the mechanics of the formal court Spanish in the original. How might this be better translated for "layperson speak"?

Side question: Should I assume the masculine past-participle-as-noun "subinscrito" has fallo as its agent? (My first thought was that this was mismatched gender for copia.)

Second side question: Is there any historical etymology behind fallo meaning both "judgment" and "failure"? (I suppose the two English terms could be related, but then that's more of a philosophical and semantics debate.)

  • P.S. Translating a legal proceeding or summary from one language to another is a great way to learn the foreign language. :)
    – pr1268
    Apr 9, 2017 at 16:53
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    I posted an answer to one of your side questions. Please, realize that it is against the philosophy of this site to have multiple questions in one post, since then it is difficult to search for this content later. If someone was to look for the etymology of "fallar" probably would not click on a question titled "Making sense of legal terms and wording - help translating document". Also, it is more difficult to upvote content and make best answers "float" to the top. Since there's 3 questions in 1, answers will be less targeted, content will be all over the place... Avoid this in the future
    – Diego
    Apr 10, 2017 at 13:05
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    About your P.S. For an ordinary Spanish speaker, understanding judicial language is very difficult. It is archaic, and I suspect it is intentionally obscure and overly cultured. It use constructions and words that serve no one in any other context. So I do not agree that it's a good way to learn Spanish.
    – Rodrigo
    Apr 10, 2017 at 13:10
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    There are instructions to make the judicial language less archaic and more "affordable" to the common citizen. Informe de la Comisión para la Modernización del lenguaje jurídico (2011)
    – roetnig
    Apr 10, 2017 at 13:27
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    Following @Diego 's suggestion, you can still edit the side questions out and generate good and interesting questions from them. It is not even suggested, but recommended. This way, every question will have its own space in the form of title, body and answers, and will be more easily reachable by future users. All in all, we want to create a good source of resources for the people.
    – fedorqui
    Apr 10, 2017 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


I'm afraid the phrase in question lacks the article. The correct phrase is: Ejecutoriado que sea el fallo, ...

Notice that google searches (Searches) show more than 2,600 results for the phrase with "el", and only one without it: your question at this site.

Judgments (or decrees) are of course executed (signed) by the judge and, as a result, enforced, that is, put into practice. "ejecutoriado" is closer to this idea of "enforcement". (Supporting source)

To translate something legal in the subjunctive passive form (it can be regarded as imperative, or as the subordinate clause of "Ordeno que se confiera"), two formulas can be used:

  • May X be + past participle ...


  • Be X + past participle ...

A good translation is not one that makes the text understandable for the layperson. A good translation is one that imitates the original to the extent that nothing is lost -- not only the content of the original, but also its style. A good literary translation needs to sound literary, a good technical translation needs to sound technical, and a good legal translation needs to sound legal, not like everyday speech.

"subinscripto" does refer to "fallo" (masculine). The point is that the primary record of the judgment will remain in court, while a copy is being requested for the judgment to be also entered in the Civil Register (the book) or filed with the Civil Registry (the office). What I mean to make clear at this point is that "registro" is ambiguous in Spanish. This second entry or recording counts as a secondary filing (subinscripción).

A possible translation could be:

  • Once the judgment has been enforced, may a certified copy thereof (be made to) be filed with the Civil Registry / recorded/entered in the Civil Register. (I think "be made of" can be omitted, as it is implicit that a copy will need to be made to be able to proceed with its filing.)

Sorry I can't help with the etymology of "fallar" and "fallo". In English, we can say that a judge or court pronounces/renders/passes/issues a judgment (emite/pronuncia/dicta una sentencia/un fallo or just falla).

  • The etymology of fallo could be a good question if you want to ask it in a new post. I thought it had the same origin as hallar (rendering fallo into a synonym of hallado), but it is not so.
    – Charlie
    Apr 10, 2017 at 8:26

Most importantly in this sentences, besides the baroque subjunctive gymnastics, is the meaning of Fallo. It's easy to mistake the word and translate it as Failure, since there is a homonym in Spanish with that very meaning and is used more frequently that the legalese. (I believe the term in translation lore is that Failure is a false friend to Fallo)

However, as Failing is a verb, it must be noted that in the word used in legalese is actually a substantive. Even though you may hear that a judge or tribunal "falla" (as a verb) the correct wording is they Emitir un fallo equivalent in English to pass judgement

Fallo Is then not a word but an actual product of the judge's or authorities action by emiting it.

So Un fallo can be an order of redress in favor of one of the parties, it can also come in the form of a punishment for a guilty party or it can be a settlement to reach peace. In every case, Fallo comes down to be a decision by someone with authority on a discussed matter, in order to end it.

The common idiom: "El Fallo del respetable siempre es inapelable" (used in show business mainly) means that there is no appeal possible once the audience has passed judgement on your performance (El respetable Is short for El respetable público but in an idiomatic way. So literally, the honorable audience passed judgement, and no appeal is possible.

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    Regarding the use of fallo, in Argentina it remains more usual (to my knowledge) to say fallo only when referring to a court judgment, as in el fallo del juez X and falla for "failure", as in una falla del sistema.
    – JMVanPelt
    Apr 10, 2017 at 23:41
  • Agreed. Also, term does lend itself to ironic humor, especially when the judgement is against ones interest, it's too tempting to deem the "Fallo" as a "Failure" in the part of the judge
    – hlecuanda
    Apr 11, 2017 at 8:29

De acuerdo a Etimologias de Chile:

  • Fallar (de decidir) viene del latí afflare (soplar hacia algo, olfatear). De ese verbo también procede hallar.

  • Fallar (de fracasar o no conseguir) viene de falla (falta, defecto), relacionada con fallax (mentiroso) y el verbo fallere (engañar). De esta raíz tenemso también falacia, falencia y falaz (y por supuesto fallo).

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