Ejusdem generis, or literally “of the same kind or class,” is a long-standing principle of both contract and statutory interpretation. It provides that, where a general word or phrase follows a list of specific terms, the general word will be interpreted to include only items of a similar nature to the terms specified. Ejusdem generis, Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019); see also People v. Illardo, 48 N.Y.2d 408 (1979) (“In the vernacular, it is known by the company it keeps.”). English courts have employed this interpretive canon since the 16th century, and New York courts have done so in the post-revolutionary period. See Archbishop of Canterbury’s Case, 2 Co. Rep. 46a, 76 Eng. Rep. 519 (1596); Neilson v. Columbian Ins. Co., 3 Cai. R. 108, n. b (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1805).
As discussed below, even today ejusdem generis continues to find purchase within the Commercial Division across a broad variety of both contractual and statutory settings.