When "just" is an adjective, I have always seen it used as an attributive one (ie, before a noun). Examples:

  • a just society
  • a just claim to the land
  • a just punishment

It seems to me that, whenever someone wants to express the same meaning in a predicate, the synonym "fair" is used instead of "just":

  • the society is fair
  • the claim to the land is fair
  • the punishment is fair

Is that right or could I use "just" in the previous 3 examples?

  • 1
    Here are a few examples: (1) Claiborne moved to include language explicitly permitting juries sitting on sedition cases to consider whether the law was just. (2) There was no obligatory rationalization on her part, no excuse, or pardon, she felt vindicated, her kind had been wronged, and the punishment was just. (3) His mother felt the punishment was just, and did not care for him. All are from google books.
    – AIQ
    Oct 24, 2019 at 23:18

1 Answer 1


"just" can fit into all the places you have "fair".

Particurlay nowadays there is a strong tendency to conflate justice and fairness, but they can be differentiated. Justice is a bit more about facts and procedures while fairness has more of an emotional and moral aspects to it. They are often more-or-less interchangable though.

E.g. Lets say a technicality prevented the admission of blatantly incriminating evidence in a trial which leads to the perperator of a crime getting off. You might argue that justice had been served but the outcome was not fair.

  • Regarding your example, you'd say that the outcome was just, but not fair? Oct 24, 2019 at 23:17
  • Yup. (You can argue the point, but that was the idea) Oct 24, 2019 at 23:21

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