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Decree vs. Order: What's the Difference?

Edited by Harlon Moss || By Janet White || Published on November 28, 2023
A decree is a formal and authoritative order, often issued by a legal authority, while an order is a direction or command delivered by someone in authority, not necessarily in a legal context.

Key Differences

A decree is typically a legal judgment or decision issued by a court, often concluding a particular case or legal matter. It has a conclusive nature and is binding on the parties involved. An order, on the other hand, refers to a directive issued by a person in authority, which could be in a legal, governmental, or organizational context, and directs someone to act or not act in a specific manner.
Decrees are usually more formal and carry legal weight, especially in the context of a judicial system. They are instrumental in the adjudication of rights and often mark the end of a legal proceeding. Orders are more diverse in their application, ranging from administrative instructions to directives in a legal case. They may or may not have a finality attached to them.
In legal terms, a decree comes into play specifically in civil cases, resolving disputes and providing a legal conclusion. It is enforceable by law. Orders, however, can be seen in both civil and criminal legal proceedings as well as in various administrative or organizational settings, indicating a command that needs to be followed.
The issuance of a decree often signifies the settlement of a legal issue, whereas an order may require immediate compliance but does not necessarily resolve a legal issue. Orders can be interim or final, but decrees typically represent the final judgment in a case.
Decrees are formal legal judgments with a definitive conclusion to a legal matter, whereas orders are broader in scope, encompassing any directive given by an authority, not limited to the judicial domain.

Comparison Chart


Formal legal judgment.
Directive or command by someone in authority.


Primarily in civil law.
Broad, including legal, administrative, etc.


Often final and conclusive.
Can be interim or final.


Legally binding and enforceable.
May or may not be legally enforceable.


Ends a legal proceeding or resolves disputes.
Broad application, including instructions or commands.

Decree and Order Definitions


An official order issued by a legal authority.
The royal decree established new guidelines for trade.


A directive in legal proceedings.
The judge's order halted the construction work immediately.


A formal legal judgment issued by a court.
The court's decree finalized the divorce proceedings.


A command issued by a person or body in authority.
The general issued an order for the troops to advance.


A binding decision in a civil law case.
The judge's decree resolved the longstanding property dispute.


A requirement set by an authority figure.
The health inspector's order led to changes in the restaurant's kitchen.


An authoritative order with legal implications.
The government's decree on environmental regulations became effective immediately.


An instruction given by a higher authority.
The CEO's order for a financial audit was executed promptly.


A conclusive judgment in legal proceedings.
The court issued a decree confirming the rights of the plaintiffs.


A mandate or command to perform a specific action.
The court order restricted the sale of certain assets.


An authoritative order having the force of law.


A condition of logical or comprehensible arrangement among the separate elements of a group.


The judgment of a court of equity.


A condition of methodical or prescribed arrangement among component parts such that proper functioning or appearance is achieved
Checked to see that the shipping department was in order.


The judgment of a court.


Condition or state in general
The escalator is in good working order.


Are decrees always related to courts?

Generally, yes, especially in the context of civil law.

What defines a decree?

A decree is a formal legal judgment, typically issued by a court.

Can an order be issued in non-legal contexts?

Yes, orders can be issued in administrative, organizational, or other authoritative contexts.

Do orders have legal authority?

In legal contexts, yes. Otherwise, it depends on the authority of the issuer.

Who issues decrees?

Decrees are typically issued by courts or legal authorities.

How is an order different from a decree?

An order is a directive or command which may or may not have legal implications, unlike a decree which is a legal judgment.

How quickly must an order be obeyed?

Generally immediately, unless specified otherwise.

What is the purpose of a decree?

To provide a formal, conclusive resolution to a legal matter.

Can decrees affect public policy?

Yes, especially if issued by high courts or governmental bodies.

Is a decree binding?

Yes, decrees are legally binding and enforceable.

Can a decree be appealed?

Yes, depending on the legal system, decrees can be subject to appeal.

Is an executive order a type of order?

Yes, it's a directive issued by a government executive.

Are orders always written?

No, they can be verbal or written.

What is an example of an order in everyday life?

A company directive for employees to follow new procedures is an order.

Are orders always formal?

They can be formal or informal, depending on the context and issuer.

What happens if a decree is not followed?

Non-compliance can lead to legal consequences.

Does a decree apply to everyone?

It applies to the parties involved in the legal case.

Can an order be part of a decree?

Yes, a decree can contain specific orders as part of its judgment.

Who can give an order?

Anyone in a position of authority can issue an order.

What kind of disputes are settled by decrees?

Typically civil disputes like property, family, or contractual issues.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.

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