Definition of letters patent in US English:

letters patent

plural noun

  • An open document issued by a monarch or government conferring a patent or other right.

    • ‘The trial judge gave us a declaration that there was never any surrender and that the letters patent were invalid.’
    • ‘The letters patent by which Queen Victoria purported to create the office of governor-general were invalid because the office had already been created by the Constitution.’
    • ‘The Australian government built its Antarctic space with letters patent and legal documents.’
    • ‘Its clauses and terms peppered the letters patent with which English monarchs empowered their colonial agents.’
    • ‘The official letters patent bolstered the prestige of the institution and formalized its structure.’
    • ‘The great seal is used for proclamations, writs, letters patent, and treaties.’
    • ‘Such concessions could take the form of specific monopolies over trade in specific items (such as dice or playing cards) by petitioning the monarch and having letters patent from that monarch issued in your name.’
    • ‘As a first level of caution, check the proposed action against your entity's letters patent or constitution.’
    • ‘There may be certain provisions in the letters patent appointing governors and governors-general which limit them in some way.’
    • ‘The king granted royal letters patent during the 1660s and 1670s to start or re-organize such institutions as the academies of dance, of music, of architecture, and of painting and sculpture.’


Late Middle English: from medieval Latin litterae patentes, literally ‘letters lying open’.


letters patent

/ˌledərz ˈpatnt//ˌlɛdərz ˈpætnt/