Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    To obliterate, strike or cross out; to destroy the effect of an instrument by defacing, obliterating, expunging or erasing it. In equity. Courts of equity frequently cancel instruments which have answered the end for which they were created, or instruments which are void or voidable, in order to prevent them from being vexatiously used against the person apparently bound by them. Snell, Eq. 498. The original and proper meaning of the word "cancellation" is the defacement of a writing by drawing lines across it in the form of crossbars or lattice work; but the same legal result may be accomplished by drawing lines through any essential part, erasing the signature, writing the word "canceled" on the face of the instrument, tearing off senis, or any similar act which puts the instrument in a condition where its invalidity appears on its face. In re Akers' Will, 74 App. Div. 461, 77 N. Y. Supp. 643; Baldwin v. Howell, 45 N. J. Eq. 519, 15 Atl. 236; In re Alger's Will, 38 Misc. Rep. 148, 77 N. Y. Supp. 166; Evans' Appeal. 58 Pa. 244; Glass v. Scott, 14 Colo. App. 377, 60 Pac. 186; In re Olmsted's Estate, 122 Cal. 224, 54 Pac. 745 ; Doe v. Perkes, 3 Barn. & A. 492. A revenue stamp is canceled by writing on its face the initials of the person using or affixing it. Spear v. Alexander. 42 Ala. 575. There is also a secondary or derivative meaning of the word, in which it signifies annulment or abrogation by the act or agreement of parties concerned, though without physical defacement. Golden v. Fowler, 26 Ga. 464 : Win-ton v. Spring, 18 Cal. 455. And "cancel" may sometimes be taken as equivalent to "discharge" or pay," as in an agreement by one person to cancel the indebtedness of another to a third person. Auburn City Bank v. Leonard, 40 Barb. (N. Y.) 119. Synonyms. Cancellation is properly distinguished from obliteration in this, that the former is a crossing out, while the latter is a blotting out; the former leaves the words still legible, while the latter renders them illegible. Townshend v. Howard, 86 Me. 285, 29 Ad. 1077. "Spoliation" is the erasure or alteration of a writing by a stranger, and may amount to a cancellation if of such a nature as to invalidate it on its face; but defacement of an instrument is not properly called "spoliation" if performed by one having control of the instrument as its maker or one duly authorized to destroy it. "Revocation" ls an act of the mind, of which cancellation may be a physical manifestation; but cancellation does not revoke unless done with that intention. Dan v. Brown, 4 Co.w. (N. Y.) 490, 15 Am. Dec. 395; In re Woods' Will (Sur.) 11 N. Y. Supp. 157.