Lien Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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Unless you’re a homeowner, real estate agent, or lawyer, the word “lien” may bring you some confusion. Not to worry, though; The Word Counter is here to help!

This article explores the word “lien” to uncover this commonly used term’s definition, purpose, and more. So if you’ve ever wondered about the meaning behind our word of the day, lien — keep reading. 

What Is the Definition of Lien?

According to the Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, the word lien can be defined as a security interest — or legal right — acquired in one’s property by a creditor. A lien typically stays in effect until the underlying obligation to the creditor is satisfied. 

If the underlying obligation isn’t satisfied, however, the creditor has the ability to legally take possession of the property involved. 

What Are the Different Types of Liens?

Believe it or not, there are many types of liens and lien holders. Liens can be put in place by financial institutions and governments — as well as small businesses. With this in mind, here are some of the most common types of liens:

  • Mortgage Liens. This is a type of voluntary lien that is used when a bank lends money to purchase or refinance a home. Mortgages are “secured loans,” and getting one creates a mortgage lien on the property. This means that the borrower promises some type of collateral to secure the loan in case they stop making payments to the bank.
  • Tax Liens. These types of liens are involuntary general liens created by state or federal statutes. It may be imposed for delinquent taxes that are owed on personal property or real property. A tax lien may also be the result of failure to pay income taxes or other taxes.
  • Child Support Liens. If a parent fails to honor their child support obligations, a legal claim can be placed on their personal property. That said, personal property doesn’t include land or real estate.
  • Judgment Liens. This is a lien that attaches to your property without your agreement (aka a type of nonconsensual lien). It’s created when an individual wins a lawsuit against another and then records the judgment against their property.
  • Mechanics Liens. This type of lien is a security interest in the title to property for the benefit of those (such as a mechanic) who have supplied labor or materials that improve the property. 
  • Maritime Liens. This refers to a non-possessory right in a vessel that gives the lien holder a right to proceed in rem against the property.

What Is the Origin of Lien?

Our word of the day is derived from Old French and Latin ligāmen, “meaning bond,“ as well as Latin ligāre, meaning “to bind.” 

What Are the Synonyms and Antonyms of Lien?

To further your overall understanding of the word lien, we went ahead and compiled a short list of synonyms and antonyms for you to review below:

A synonym is one of two or more words that have the same or nearly the same meaning. Synonyms of lien include:

  • Charge
  • Claim
  • Hold on property
  • Security on property
  • Debenture
  • Real security

An antonym is a word opposite in meaning to another. Antonyms of lien include:

  • Forfeit
  • Paid

How Can You Use Lien in a Sentence?

The word lien can be defined as a claim to the possession of another until a debt is settled — but do you know how to use it in a sentence? Not to worry; here are a few example sentences for you to review below:

“The bank has a lien on my new truck until I pay back my financial obligations.”

“I am looking for a good lawyer to help me remove a lien that was placed on my property in error — could you help me?”

“Amber will have a lien on her house until she pays her federal taxes.”

“The creditor won’t remove the lien from Tom’s yacht until he pays his debts.”

“Did you know that the term lien generally refers to a wide range of encumbrances in the United States?”

“The lender has a legal right to sell your property in order to secure payment if you don’t follow through with repayment.”

“After failing to pay child support, Mark received a lien on his property in New York.”

“A lien was put on Joe’s car after he failed to make his payments on time.”

What Are the Translations of Lien?

Interested in learning how to say our word of the day in a different language? We’ve got you covered! Here are some common translations of lien:

  • Afrikaans — Skakel
  • Arabic — رابط
  • Bulgarian — връзка
  • Chinese (simplified) — 链接
  • Croatian — povezati
  • Czech — propojit
  • Danish — sammenkæde
  • American English — 
  • Dutch — verbinden
  • Finnish — linkki
  • French — lien
  • German — verbinden
  • Italian — collegamento
  • Greek — σύνδεση
  • Japanese — リンク
  • Korean — 링크
  • Norwegian — lenke
  • Polish — łącze
  • British English — 
  • Portuguese — link
  • Russian — связь
  • Spanish — enlace
  • Swedish — länk
  • Thai — ลิงก์
  • Turkish — bağlantı
  • Ukrainian — Посилання
  • Vietnamese — liên kết

What Are Some Terms Related to Lien?

As you continue learning about the word lien, you’ll likely come across a number of related words, such as:

  • Involuntary Lien — liens that are placed on a property by an outside authority against the owner’s will
  • Second Lien — a mortgage that exists behind a first mortgage lien
  • Statutory Liens — liens created by operation of law, not requiring the consent of the debtor
  • Tax Authority — refers to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and any other domestic or foreign governmental authority responsible for the administration of any Taxes.


So, what exactly is a lien, you ask?

In short, a lien is a claim or legal right against an asset that is usually used as collateral to satisfy a debt. 


Lien – Definition, Meaning & Synonyms | 

lien | Wex | US Law | LII Legal Information Institute

Maritime Lien | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute