Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Chattels


What is the dictionary definition of Chattels?

Dictionary Definition

personal as opposed to real property; any tangible movable property (furniture or domestic animals or a car etc)

n. an item of personal property which is movable, as distinguished from real property (land and improvements).

Full Definition of Chattels

Chattels is one of those funny legal words which means simply ‘the things you own’.

The legal definition of chattels is: property of any kind other than freehold land. In practice, it will mean your moveable items such as furniture or personal possessions.

If you’re the sort of person who goes out to dinner or cocktail parties, you can spot the lawyers, they use the word chattels in their ‘social’ conversation!

A chattel can be either personal or real. Strictly speaking, ‘chattel personal’ (or ‘personal chattel’) denotes a movable thing or good. More commonly, though, the term is used in a wider sense to signify any kind of property other than real property and chattels real. As a result, ‘chattel personal’ refers to both tangible and intangible objects or choses in possession and choses in action. Tangible chattels (or choses in possession) include such items as vehicles, furniture, domestic animals, etc. They consist of movable things that can be physically possessed. Intangible chattels (or choses in action) comprise such items as debts, shares in companies, copyrights, negotiable instruments, etc. They include anything that exists as a claim recoverable by action at law.

‘Chattel real’ (or ‘real chattel’) is a term for rights associated with real estate (land and buildings) but classified as chattel because, traditionally, at common law, the rights devolved to the personal representative of the deceased owner, not to his heir. In fact, the main difference between real estate and chattels real had to do with: (i) the mode of devolution upon death; (ii) the rights of succession on intestacy; and (iii) the issue of legal remedies. However, these issues were made irrelevant in 1925 as a result of the extensive land reform legislation enacted that year, and the distinction is now only of historical interest. Today, the main instances of chattels real are interests in land less than a freehold, for example, leasehold estates. The justification for this classification is that a chattel real lacks the indefiniteness of time essential to real property.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Chattels. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd.
January 26, 2022
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Chattels. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: January 26, 2022).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Chattels. Retrieved January 26, 2022
, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Chattels are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 26th April, 2020 | 81 Views.