Definition of ancient lights in English:

ancient lights

plural noun

English Law
  • [treated as singular] The right of access to light of a property, established by custom and used to prevent the construction of buildings on adjacent property which would obstruct such access.

    • ‘The very settled approach in the United States is to reject such claims (England has a doctrine of ancient lights which was firmly rejected here).’
    • ‘Thus, it is regarded from this account that the first lightstructures could be described as ` fire-towers’ and, indeed, many ancient lights are referred to with this term.’
    • ‘On the other hand, the Court ought to be very careful not to allow an action for the protection of ancient lights to be used as a means of extorting money.’
    • ‘Tom associates England with ‘ancient lights’, a phrase that for him resonates with the mythic and the mystic.’


Mid 18th century: from lights meaning ‘light from the sky’. In England the sign ‘Ancient Lights’ was often placed on a house, adjacent to a site where a high building might be erected.


ancient lights