One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Land that is legally deemed to be unoccupied or uninhabited. In Australia the question of whether British colonizers had regarded the continent as terra nullius at the time of the original settlement, and, if so, whether this was a proper designation, was at the centre of several important legal cases in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Mid 19th century: Latin, literally ‘land belonging to no one’, from terra ‘earth’ (see terra) and nullius, genitive of nullus ‘no one’.
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