Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Detinue

Quick Summary of Detinue

In tort law, detinue is an action to recover for the wrongful taking of personal property.

What is the dictionary definition of Detinue?

Dictionary Definition

  1. A person or thing detained; a detainee.
  2. A legal action to reclaim goods wrongfully detained.

Full Definition of Detinue

The tort of detinue was quite wide-ranging some 200 years ago, but its role was in time taken over by the tort of conversion. Traditionally, detinue existed whenever the defendant either used or retained goods supplied by the claimant under a bailment, but without the claimant’s authorisation. By the latter part of the 20th century, though, the tort of detinue had contracted until it was only being pleaded in cases where the bailee received goods from the bailor and then lost them. The traditional view was that this could not be conversion, since conversion required a conscious (i.e. positive) act on the part of the bailee. The Torts (Interference with Goods) Act (1977) abolished detinue altogether, and expanded the tort of conversion to cover this last remaining circumstance where detinue might have been pleaded. Hence, by statute, the bailee’s (unintentional) error would today amount to the tort of conversion.

See interference with goods.

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):
Detinue. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 25, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Detinue. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 25, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Detinue. Retrieved September 25, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Detinue 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: 5th April, 2020 | 2 Views.