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What Is A Signature (Explained: All You Need To Know)

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What Is A Signature

A signature is a unique mark, writing, sign, or figure that a person makes to identify itself and to convey intent, acknowledgment, or acceptance.

The term “signature” comes from the Latin root “signare” meaning “to sign”.

Typically, a signature depicts a person’s name in a handwritten format.

However, a signature can also be any sign, mark, or symbol a person uses that uniquely identifies the person and conveys the person’s intent.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a signature can also be:

The name of a person written with his or her own hand

In essence, the main objective of a signature is the proof of the signatory’s identity and demonstration of intent.

Function of A Signature

The main function of a signature is to appose a permanent writing or mark on a document that clearly identifies a specific person, proves that the person has seen the physically signed document, and he or she has accepted or acknowledge the content of the document.

In summary, the function of a signature is to:

  • Identify the person signing 
  • Prove the person was in the physical presence of the document
  • Acknowledged or consented to the content of the document 

Legal Signature

So what is a legal signature?

A legal signature refers to a type of signature that can legally bind the signatory.

In most cases, a person’s unique signature is sufficient to act as a legal signature and legally produce effects on the person signing.

The law recognizes most forms of signature such as markets, cursive writing, and elaborate calligraphic-type of signatures.

A person can even sign by putting the letter “X” on a document to prove identity and intent.

In most cases though, individuals will adopt a signature that is written in a unique manner specific to them.

Since the law recognizes most signatures, a simple contract between two people can be signed by the signing parties in their usual way and the contract will produce legal effects.

However, if the law imposes specific rules governing the signature of a document or certain formalities, those rules and formalities must be respected for the signature to be legal.

For example, certain types of contracts require that the person signing execute the agreement before a notary public or an attorney for the contract to become enforceable. 

This is intended to ensure that the person had the opportunity to consider the terms of the contract and gave deliberate consent.

Signature Under Contract

In contract law, a signature is a text, mark, figure, or symbol that identifies the contracting party and conveys the person’s consent to the terms of the contract.

Typically, the signatories will use a pen appose their name in a stylized fashion or use digital means to achieve the same goal.

In the United States, to facilitate the signature of documents in digital format, the Electronic Signatures in Global And National Commerce Act (E-Sign Act) was adopted recognizing the validity of electronic contracts and signature.

In most cases, the signatures are apposed at the end of the contract on a “signature page” and where each signing party signs on the designated “signature block”.

Signature Under The Uniform Commercial Code 

Under Section 1-201(37) of the Uniform Commercial Code, the term “signed” is defined as:

Includes using any symbol executed or adopted with present intention to adopt or accept a writing

As you can see, under the UCC, a signed document is one where:

  • A signing party has used any text or symbol
  • Executed or adopted by a person or company
  • With the intention to adopt or accept a writing 

What Are The Different Types of Signatures

There are different types of signature that can be equally valid.

Mechanically Reproduced

The first type of signature is mechanically produced signatures such as TrueType font or a signature stamp.

These types of signatures are used by individuals who are required to sign many documents in a short period of time like a company CEO sending a letter to all the employees of the company.

The second type of signature is the wet signature.

Wet Signature

A wet signature, as the name implies, is “wet” whereby the signer uses a pen to sign a document by hand.

In certain cases, individuals are required to sign applications or forms using a wet signature.

Electronic Signature

There are also e-signatures.

E-signatures or electronic signatures represents data that is logically associated with other data that the signature intends to sign.

An e-signature is equivalent to a wet signature to the extent it respects the specific rules and regulations under which it was created such as eIDAS in Europe or NIST-DSS in the United States.

Digital Signature

A digital signature is similar to electronic signatures but includes a digital process to validate the authenticity of the document and the integrity of the communication of the document between signing parties.

Generally, digital signatures use a Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA) where there is a unique key generation on the document, signing can only be done with the unique key, and signer’s identity is verified during the process.

Conformed Signature

What is a conformed signature you ask?

Well, a confirmed signature is essentially a typewritten signature starting with the letter “S” and then the name of the person.

This type of signature is used to replace a wet signature indicating that there is an original document bearing the original wet signature of the signatory and this replaces the original one that is kept in safekeeping. 

For example, a company board member may sign a document in wet signature and a copy of the same document is produced with a conformed signature as follows:

  • (s) John Smith
  • /s/ John Smith

What Does Signature Mean Takeaways 

So there you have it folks!

What is the definition of signature?

What is the purpose of a signature on an application?

A signature can be a variety of things such as a person’s written name, a mark, or a symbol.

Typically, the act of signing a document and apposing a signature is to prove who you are and demonstrate your consent or intent.

In common terms, the term “signature” is what most consider as a handwritten signature on a document.

Although historically signatures were made by hand, today there are different types of signatures that can produce legally binding effects such as digital signatures.

Unless the law requires a specific form of signature or imposes certain formalities, any character, figure, designation, text, or symbol can be used to sign a document.

I hope I was able to explain to you what is a signature, the different types of signatures, its function, and how it works.

Good luck with the signing of your document!

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Now, let’s look at a summary of our findings.

What Is A Signature Summary

  • Fundamentally, your signature is a text, symbol, figure, or depiction that you make in your own characteristic way clearly identifying you and showing that you agree with the content of the document
  • Most people associate a signature with a handwritten text or symbol 
  • With the advancement of technology and digital commerce, technological methods have been developed allowing people to sign in such a way as to produce legally binding effects 
  • Unless there’s a rule, statute, or legal requirement for a signature to be done in a certain way or to respect certain formalities before signing, any text, character, or style you use to sign will be a valid signature
Authorized signatory 
Biometric signature
Builder’s signature
Digital signatures 
Electronic signatures
Email signature
Facsimile signature
Forged signature 
Key signature
Legal signature 
Online signature 
Royal sign-manual
Signature block 
Signature bond
Signature loan 
Signature synonym 
Time signature 
Unauthorized signature
Authorized agent
Authorized bank 
Authorized capital 
Authorized person
Authorized settlement agent 
Authorized user
Business bank account 
Certificate of formation
Company representative 
Contract of agency 
Issued shares 
Negotiable instrument 
Power of attorney
Shares authorized
Signing authority
UCC 1-308
Wet signature
Without prejudice 
Witness signature
What is a copyright 
What is a trademark
What is an initial 
What is brandmark
Editorial Staff
Hello Nation! I'm a lawyer by trade and an entrepreneur by spirit. I specialize in law, business, marketing, and technology (and love it!). I'm an expert SEO and content marketer where I deeply enjoy writing content in highly competitive fields. On this blog, I share my experiences, knowledge, and provide you with golden nuggets of useful information. Enjoy!

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