Oath

An official and formal declaration where one calls upon God to witness the truth of a statement or action. It is an affirmation of truth and obligation.

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Additional Sources

Answers.com

1. A solemn, formal declaration or promise to fulfill a pledge, often calling on God, a god, or a sacred object as witness.

2. The words or formula of such a declaration or promise.

3. Something declared or promised.

Duhaime Legal Dictionary

A religious or solemn affirmation to tell the truth or to take a certain action.

Encyclopedia Britannica

A sacred or solemn voluntary promise usually involving the penalty of divine retribution for intentional falsity and often used in legal procedures.

Law.com Dictionary

1) a swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which would subject the oath-taker to a prosecution for the crime of perjury if he/she knowingly lies in a statement either orally in a trial or deposition or in writing. Traditionally, the oath concludes "so help me God," but the approval of a supreme being is often omitted. Criminal perjury charges are rare, however, since the person stating the untruth will almost always claim error, mistake, loss of memory or opinion. At the beginning of any testimony by a witness, the clerk or court reporter administers an oath to the witness. 2) The "swearing in" of a person assuming a public office, sometimes called the "oath of office." 3) sworn commitment of allegiance, as to one's country.

Lawyers.com

1 : a solemn attestation of the truth of one's words or the sincerity of one's intentions specif : one accompanied by calling upon a deity as a witness

2 : a promise (as to perform official duties faithfully) corroborated by an oath

Lect Law Library

A declaration made according to law, before a competent tribunal or officer, to tell the truth; or it is the act of one who, when lawfully required to tell the truth, takes God to witness that what he says is true. It is a religious act by which the party invokes God not only to witness the truth and sincerity of his promise but also to avenge his imposture or violated faith, or in other words to punish his perjury if he shall be guilty of it.

It is proper to distinguish two things in oaths; 1. The invocation by which the God of truth, who knows all things, is taken to witness. 2. The imprecation by which he is asked as a just and all-powerful being, to punish perjury.The commencement of an oath is made by the party taking hold of the book, after being required by the officer to do so, and ends generally with the words,"so help you God," and kissing the book, when the form used is that of swearing on the Evangelists.Oaths are taken in various forms; the most usual is upon the Gospel by taking the book in the hand; the words commonly used are, "You do swear that, " etc. "so help you God," and then kissing the book. The origin of this oath may be traced to the Roman law, and the kissing the book is said to be an imitation of the priest's kissing the ritual as a sign of reverence, before he reads it to the people.

Wikipedia

An oath is either a statement of fact or a promise calling upon something or someone that the oath maker considers sacred, usually God, as a witness to the binding nature of the promise or the truth of the statement of fact. To swear is to take an oath, to make a solemn vow.

The essence of a divine oath is an invocation of divine agency to be a guarantor of the oath taker's own honesty and integrity in the matter under question. By implication, this invokes divine displeasure if the oath taker fails in their sworn duties. It therefore implies greater care than usual in the act of the performance of one's duty, such as in testimony to the facts of the matter in a court of law.

A person taking an oath indicates this in a number of ways. The most usual is the explicit "I swear," but any statement or promise that includes "with * as my witness" or "so help me *," with '*' being something or someone the oath-taker holds sacred, is an oath. Many people take an oath by holding in their hand or placing over their head a book of scripture or a sacred object, thus indicating the sacred witness through their action: such an oath is called corporal. However, the chief purpose of such an act is for ceremony or solemnity, and the act does not of itself make an oath.

In Western countries it is customary to raise the right hand while swearing an oath, whether or not the left hand is laid on a Bible or other text. This custom originated during the Medieval period when convicted felons were often branded on the palm of the right hand with a letter or mark indicating their conviction. Since felons were disqualified from making declarations under oath, an oath-taker would display their right hand to show that they were free of convictions and therefore able take an oath.