The art or process of discovering and ascertaining the meaning of a statute, will, contract, or other written document. The discovery and representation of the true meaning of any signs used to convey ideas.
It is said to be either "legal," which rests on the same authority as the law itself, or "doctrinal," which rests upon its intrinsic reasonableness. Legal interpretation may be either "authentic," when it is expressly provided by the legislator, or "usual," when it is derived from unwritten practice.
Doctrinal interpretation may turn on the meaning of words and sentences, when it is called "grammatical," or on the intention of the legislator, when it is described as "logical."
When logical interpretation stretches the words of a statute to cover its obvious meaning, it is called "extensive;" when, on the other hand, it avoids giving full meaning to the words, in order not to go beyond the intention of the legislator, it is called "restrictive."
As to strict interpretation and liberal interpretation, see construction.
Construction and Interpretation distinguished.
In the strict usage of this term, "construction" is a term of wider scope than "interpretation;" for, while the latter is concerned only with ascertaining the sense and meaning of the subject matter, the former may also be directed to explaining the legal effects and consequences of the instrument in question. Hence interpretation precedes construction, but stops at the written text.
Interpretation and construction of written instruments are not the same. A rule of construction is one which either governs the effect of an ascertained intention, or points out what the court should do in the absence of express or implied intention, while a rule of interpretation is one which governs the ascertainment of the meaning of the maker of the instrument. In re Union Trust Co., 89 Misc. 69, 151 N.Y.S. 246, 249.
These two terms are however, commonly used interchangeably.
@ close interpretation
@ strict interpretation
@ close or strict interpretation
Close or strict interpretation (interpretatio restricta) is adopted if just reasons, connected with the formation and character of the text, induce us to take the words in their narrowest meaning. This species of interpretation has generally been called "literal." (literal interpretation)
@ extensive interpretation
Extensive interpretation (interpretatio extensiva, called, also, "liberal interpretation") adopts a more comprehensive signification of the word.
@ extravagant interpretation
Extravagant interpretation (interpretatio excedens) is that which substitutes a meaning evidently beyond the true one. It is therefore not genuine interpretation. Free or unrestricted interpretation (interpretatio soluta) proceeds simply on the general principles of interpretation in good faith, not bound by any specific or superior principle.
@ limited interpretation
@ restricted interpretation
@ limited or restricted interpretation
Limited or restricted interpretation (interpretatio limitata) is when we are influenced by other principles than the strictly hermeneutic ones.
@ predestined interpretation
Predestined interpretation (interpretatio predestinata) takes place if the interpreter, laboring under a strong bias of mind, makes the text subservient to his preconceived views or desires. This includes artful interpretation (interpretatio vafer), by which the interpreter seeks to give a meaning to the text other than the one he knows to have been intended.
@ authentic interpretation
In the civil law, authentic interpretation of laws is that given by the legislator himself, which is obligatory on the courts.
@ customary interpretation
Customary interpretation (also called "usual interpretation") is that which arises from successive or concurrent decisions of the court on the same subject-matter, having regard to the spirit of the law, jurisprudence, usages, and equity; as distinguished from "authentic" interpretation, which is that given by the legislator himself
@ usual interpretation
See customary interpretation

Black's law dictionary. . 1990.

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