Define: Nuisance

Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Nuisance

Quick Summary of Nuisance

A nuisance is an unreasonable, unwarranted, or unlawful use of one’s property which interferes with the enjoyment or the use of another person’s property. A nuisance is a civil wrong and does not require an invasion of the land or trespass. Examples of nuisance include foul odours, noxious gases, smoke, dust, loud noises, excessive light, or high temperatures.

A private nuisance is a nuisance which interferes with a private land owner’s rights to enjoy their property or expect a certain level of comfort. A private landowner can bring action against another person for private nuisance if they can prove the offender interfered with their ability to enjoy their land, although the interference must be substantial and unreasonable.

If a plaintiff wishes to win a civil case or file a tort-based on a nuisance they will have to prove the interference was continuous over time and would have constituted a nuisance for a “reasonable person” which will depend on the individual circumstances. Relief for a nuisance is generally an injunctive relief which will require the defendant to start or stop doing a specific action. The plaintiff can ask for both a temporary restraining order until the ruling and if the defendant does not follow the order they may be forced to pay fines or be sent to jail.

What is the dictionary definition of Nuisance?

Dictionary Definition

(law) a broad legal concept including anything that disturbs the reasonable use of your property or endangers life and health or is offensive

  1. A minor annoyance or inconvenience.
  2. A person or thing causing annoyance or inconvenience.
  3. legal Anything harmful or offensive to the community or to a member of it, for which a legal remedy exists.


Full Definition of Nuisance

The word nuisance is a word capable of a wide sense; the word means annoyance, or anything that works hurt, inconvenience, or damage, and many include any infringement upon the enjoyment of territorial or personal rights.  If one digs a trench across a public road it is a public nuisance; and if a person falls into it, and is hurt, he may have an action against the wrongdoer.  So if A builds on his own hand so as to darken the ancient lights in his neighbour B’s house, it is a private nuisance.

Public Nuisance

A person is guilty of a public nuisance, who does any act, or is guilty of an illegal omission, which causes any common injury, danger, or annoyance to the public, or to the people in general who dwell or occupy a property in the vicinity, or which must necessarily cause injury, obstruction, danger, or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public right. A common nuisance is not excused on the ground that it causes some convenience or advantage.

The distinction between a public and private nuisance must be kept in view- the mode of procedure for the abatement of the former being different from that available to an individual with respect to the latter.  To constitute a public nuisance, the thing complained of must be such as in its nature or its consequences is a nuisance an injury or damage to all persons who come within the sphere of its operation, though it may be so in a greater degree to some than it is to other. For example, if during the operation of a manufactory, volumes of noxious smoke or of poisonous effluvia are emitted; to persons who are at all within the reach of these operations, a nuisance, in the popular sense of the term is committed; although to those who are nearer to the manufactory in question the nuisance and inconvenience caused by it may be greater than it is to those who are more remote from it. So, the stopping of the king’s highway is a nuisance to all who may have occasion to travel upon that highway; it may be a much greater nuisance to a person who has to travel along it every day then it is to an individual who has to travel along it only once a year, but it is more or less a nuisance to everyone who has occasion to use it is public nuisance.


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):
Nuisance. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. April 06, 2020
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Nuisance. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: April 06, 2020).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Nuisance. Retrieved April 06, 2020, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Nuisance 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: 31st March, 2020