Act of God
What's the meaning of the phrase 'Act of God'?
An act which is accepted legally as being outside human control.
What's the origin of the phrase 'Act of God'?
The phrase 'act of God' occurs in religious texts dating back to the 13th century, specifically referring to acts that God has undertaken. The 'act of God' referred to here is that which is used in legal and insurance circles when discussing any act which is outside human control and therefore not the responsibility of any individual or corporation. The term was first used in this way in the mid-19th century. Peter Simmonds' Dictionary of Trade Products, 1858, uses the term:
"Force-majeure, a French commercial term for unavoidable accidents in the transport of goods, from superior force, the act of God, etc."
In July 1803, The Times included this legal ruling given in a court case by Lord Ellenborough, which is in terms that we are now familiar with from our own household insurance policies:
"By Common Law, Carriers are insurers against every loss of property entrusted to their care, except losses arising from the Act of God, or the King's enemies." [treason]