Legal speak isn’t the easiest language to understand, and we often get clients confused about certain terms. Today, I’ll be looking at some of the most perplexing terms that you’re likely to encounter when visiting a notary.


To certify, is to attest or confirm in a formal statement. 

When doing business in the UK, you will likely be asked to provide certified documents. This is commonly required by banks or solicitors when buying/selling property. To get a document certified you will need to take it to a professional, commonly a solicitor, barrister, commissioner for oaths, Justice of the Peace, accountant or notary. Typically, you will be asked to have your signature certified or copies of your identity documents. Now, if you are doing business outside of the UK, you may be asked to have a document certified by a notary or “notarised”.


To notarise, is to certify by a notary public.

A notarial certification is simply authentication by a notary public. A notary is a lawyer who specialises in authentication and has undergone additional training to be appointed a notary. As such certification by the notary is widely regarded as a higher level of authentication to that provided by solicitors, barristers, accountants etc. Certification by a notary is the standard method of certifying documents between foreign jurisdictions as the higher level of authentication by the notary is deemed as more trusted.

When notarising a document, the notary will often attach a notarial certificate to the document. This certificate is a formal statement confirming facts made by the notary about the document. The certificate is often bound securely to the document with ribbon and is not meant to be taken apart. In certain cases, once a document has been notarised it will be valid abroad. However, it is also common for the document to undergo further authentication. This additional step is known as “legalisation”.


To legalise, is to make something permissible by law.

If someone tells you to legalise a document, they are requesting that the document is stamped by the government. This could potentially mean either the UK government or a foreign government. In most situations, it will mean the UK government. You will often also hear this termed Apostille, Apostilled, or Apostillation. This means that the document has to be submitted at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and they will then confirm the certification by the notary.

In a handful of cases, legalisation will also mean that the document has to go to a Consulate/Embassy/High Commission to be authenticated. This can also be termed as Consular Legalisation or Embassy Legalisation. For this stage, the relevant foreign government will be confirming that the document has been correctly authenticated by the notary and UK government, and that it is good to use in their country.

I hope the above has cleared up some confusion and expanded a bit on some of the terminology. We’ll be expanding on some of the terms in future posts and so stay tuned!