Definition of ancient lights in English:

Share this entry

ancient lights

Pronunciation: /eɪnʃəntˈlʌɪts/

plural noun

[treated as singular] English Law
The right of access to light of a property, established by custom and used to prevent the construction of buildings on adjacent property which would obstruct such access.
Example sentences
  • On the other hand, the Court ought to be very careful not to allow an action for the protection of ancient lights to be used as a means of extorting money.
  • Tom associates England with ‘ancient lights’, a phrase that for him resonates with the mythic and the mystic.
  • The very settled approach in the United States is to reject such claims (England has a doctrine of ancient lights which was firmly rejected here).


Mid 18th century: from lights meaning 'light from the sky'. In England the sign ‘Ancient Lights’ was often placed on a house, adjacent to a site where a high building might be erected.

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.