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What Does "in Extenso" Mean?

By Maggie Worth
Updated May 16, 2024
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The term in extenso comes from Latin and literally means "at full length." It usually appears as a footnote and is used to indicate that the entire contents of a book, article, or other document have been printed elsewhere. It is used in both literary and legal circles, frequently at the end of a summary or excerpt, but it also may be used to direct readers to a complete version of a work any time that a shortened version of that work appears.

Often, literary journals, professional journals, magazines, newspapers, and other print media do not have the room to print an entire document. They might print an abridged version instead or print a "teaser" or excerpt, which is a short portion of the document. At the end of the shortened or abridged version, the publisher will then print a short statement saying that the article or document may be found in extenso and list the place where the entire document resides.

This might also occur within the body text of a research paper, non-fiction book, or legal brief as well. A brief portion of a ruling or article might be quoted within the paper and then printed in extenso in the paper's appendix or at another location, such as a website. The main purpose of such a strategy is to use the shortened article as a reference while conserving space within the paper or brief. For example, a legal brief designed to convince a judge to allow the admission of a particular piece of evidence might reference a ruling in which similar evidence was admitted in a similar case. The ruling might then be printed in extenso in the appendix so the judge can read the entire ruling if he desires.

In the digital age, in extenso might appear as an enabled link or in front of a link to indicate that clicking will take the reader to the full version of the document. This can happen on a web page, blog, electronic article, or other similar document. As with print media, this designation indicates that the version on the electronic page is not the full version.

The term comes from Latin, originating with the word extensus, which means "to stretch." Many believe that the actual term was first used in the late 1800s, but no positive attribution exists. It is similar to the phrase in totum, which is Latin for "in total."

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Discussion Comments
By titans62 — On Nov 26, 2011

@stl156 - I have also used "in extenso" in scouting sources out for my research topics and I have found this term to be very useful when I am getting desperate looking for sources.

Most of the time if you are not signed up to certain academic based sites you can only read short little excerpts based off of what you have entered into their search engine. Whenever one of their things comes up they show you maybe a paragraph, followed by "in extenso" and tells where the rest is.

By looking at sites like this you can at least find a source that has been cited and be able to find out the name of the entire source that has been cited, which may have more things to look at.

By stl156 — On Nov 25, 2011

Whenever I am looking for sources on the internet while doing my research I am always looking for the phrase "in extenso" when I am just on some random sites that include certain aspects of my research that I need and are not necessarily reliable internet sites to cite in a research paper.

Despite these not being reliable sites, you can at least look at the sources and see if they are reliable. Most of the time on these sites they will take their own spin on sources, but it will at least give a source and will be listed as "in extenso." By looking at this source I can determine the validity of it and whether the site does have some redeeming aspects to it.

By jcraig — On Nov 24, 2011

@JimmyT - Yeah, you are right in reality people who are not in a research type of profession will usually not come across this term.

I also study history and the only reason I take note of this term is when I am searching for articles to use in my research papers and the rest of the article is continued someplace else.

Sometimes studying history you only get little excerpts of the main articles on websites and if you find something that interests you and need a little more you can see if there is something that says "in extenso" and find out where the rest is. This is not at all uncommon in the field of history and just a little tid bit concerning research that can help out when looking for sources to use.

By JimmyT — On Nov 23, 2011

I am a graduate student in history and I extensively use footnotes in all my papers, no matter how small.

I have only heard the term "in extenso" used a few times and it was by a professor that liked to show off and say very fancy words that everyone in the class did not know. However, for people that are interested in philology or name origin it is definitely something that is very interesting.

Now as far as reading articles or papers, whenever I get onto a search engine to try and find something and come across a short little excerpt of a longer text it will say "in extenso."

These two instances are the only times I ever have come across this term, otherwise it probably has very little meaning to people as a whole.

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