Notary Public?

Yes, my commission expires In June of next year.

Where did my question go? Anyway… the question was why is it called a Notary Public instead of the more obvious Public Notary and is there anything called a Notary Private?

Never heard of a notary private.

Certain titles, including notary public, attorney general, and sergeant major, defy normal English word order by placing the adjective after the noun. Why only in those titles (and not, for example, district attorney and master sergeant), I don’t know. Interesting question.

It is also called a “Public Notary”


I also see a reference to “notary private” here:

My WAG: the adjective came second in latin. The office of notary public is ancient in origin and dates at least as far back as Roman Law, called notarius or scriba or tabelliones forenses or personae publicae. Later in civil law countries it was called registraius, actuarius, or scrivarius.

Perhaps the latin form of “notary public” (notarius publius? I can’t do the declension) was the original usage of what we call notary public today.

notarius publicus

At least that is what it’s called over here.

Found it. The phrases do come from Romance syntax, but the connection to modern law can be made even more recently.

“Postpositive adjectives” follow the nouns they modify in accordance with Romance syntax rather than Germanic syntax that english normally follows. They’re usually found in english as a remnant of Norman French influence during the Middle Ages, especially right after the Norman Conquest.

French legal phrases, syntax and all, were adopted into English unchanged, even though in English adjectives almost always precede the nouns they modify. A few examples of legal phrases with postpositive adjectives: accounts payable, accounts receiveable, attorney general, condition precedent, condition subsequent, easement appurtenant, fee simple, president-elect, court martial, queen regnant, heir apparent, body politic, sum total, notary public.

Source: Bryan E. Garner, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage 424-425 (1987).

Wow! That’s the most complete answer to any question I have ever posed! Thanks pravnik.

Aw, shucks. :smiley:

What does it mean (legally speaking) that a document was NOTARIZED? All I see it meaning,is that you paid $5.00 to have a NP emboss his stamp onto it! ?

Generally it means that the notary public has witnessed that you signed the document, and he signed the document. Sort of an approved witness.

As I understand it, the notary is signing it to say that you, John Doe, personally known to him or her, did sign the document on such and such a date. My grandmother’s a notary, and she said it used to be expected that you would only notarize a document if you actually knew the signer, that ID wasn’t good enough because it could be faked. This may be all hearsay, mind you.


There are two endorsements a notary can use, one of which is what Corrvin defined – that the notary knows personally the individual who signed the document in his/her presence and vouches that it was indeed John Doe who signed the name John Doe to this deed/will/waiver-of-rights/generic-legal-document.

The other is briefer, and effectively vouches that a person producing identification suggestive that he is John Doe and swearing that he is indeed John Doe signed the name John Doe to the document.

Either is legal for a notarized document; for what I think are obvious reasons the first is preferable for complete ensurance of identity where it’s feasible to get a notary who actually knows the individual.

If you are a Mobile Notary Public/Loan Signing Agent looking for notary work, join thousands of other smart notaries and register with and get connected in your state from our growing Notary Referral System (NRI) database. Join now to start getting more calls and business today!