earnest

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earnest

in Anglo-American law a part-payment made to seal a bargain. At times the implication has been of a token sum that is forfeitable. The Roman law tradition has a very developed equivalent: ARRA. See also DEPOSIT.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006

EARNEST, contracts. The payment of a part of the price of goods sold, or the delivery of part of such goods, for the purpose of binding the contract.
     2. The effect of earnest is to bind the goods sold, and upon their being paid for without default, the buyer is entitled to them. But notwithstanding the earnest, the money must be paid upon taking away the goods, because no other time for payment is appointed; earnest only binds the bargain, and gives the buyer a right to demand, but a demand without payment of the money is void; after earnest given the vendor cannot sell the goods to another, without a default in the vendee, and therefore if the latter does not come and pay, and take the goods, the vendor ought to go and request him, and then if he does not come, pay for the goods and take them away in convenient time, the agreement is dissolved, and he is at liberty to sell them to any other person. 1 Salk. 113: 2 Bl. Com. 447; 2 Kent, Com. 389; Ayl. Pand. 450; 3 Campb. R. 426.

A Law Dictionary, Adapted to the Constitution and Laws of the United States. By John Bouvier. Published 1856.
References in classic literature ?
Again Kate Swift talked with great earnestness. Night was coming on and the light in the room grew dim.
She talked with passionate earnestness. The impulse that had driven her out into the snow poured itself out into talk.
These were the ambitious youths of the race, at work with an earnestness that put to shame the conventional student life of most educational institutions.
I think that no man of our generation has a more noteworthy achievement to his credit than this; and it is an achievement of moral earnestness of the strong character of a man who has done a great national service.
Earnestness is ever deeply solemn: first, as I listened to that prayer, I wondered at his; then, when it continued and rose, I was touched by it, and at last awed.
Nor did she put the question altogether idly, but, for the moment, with a portion of genuine earnestness; for, such was Pearl's wonderful intelligence, that her mother half doubted whether she were not acquainted with the secret spell of her existence, and might not now reveal herself.
'No, no, my lord, forgive me,' implored the widow, laying both her hands upon his breast, and scarcely knowing what she did, or said, in the earnestness of her supplication, 'but there are reasons why you should hear my earnest, mother's prayer, and leave my son with me.
"The pro-poor decisions benefiting poor farmers and traders reflect the earnestness of the BJP-led NDA government to fulfill the promises made to the people," he said on Saturday.
And that earnestness and keenness to work only comes once one gets to know the limitation of this life span.
For Paulina, the achievement was a result of character development during her study, through the earnestness and the willingness to learn, and the spirit to always dare to try new things.
He said the success also proved the state government's earnestness in delivering the promises made to the people despite facing various challenges.
It's all a bit too frenetic at times, but the fact that there's more comedy, sarcasm and cynicism than earnestness gives it an edge.