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A material factor; a basic component.
The term is used to mean one of several parts that unite to form a whole, as in elements of a criminal action or civil action. In the tort of Assault and Battery, an essential element of the offense would be unwanted physical contact. An element of the crime of rape is lack of consent on the part of the victim.
n. 1) an essential requirement to a cause of action (the right to bring a lawsuit to enforce a particular right). Each cause of action (negligence, breach of contract, trespass, assault, etc.) is made up of a basic set of elements which must be alleged and proved. Each charge of a criminal offense requires allegation and proof of its elements. 2) essential requirement of a General Plan. (See: cause of action, crime, General Plan, zoning)