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Scintilla is Latin for "spark." The word scintilla is only used in the metaphorical meaning of "spark" in English: meaning a hint or trace of something that barely suggests its presence.

In common law, the “scintilla of evidence” doctrine is used in courts to determine the amount of evidence required to sustain a decision. According to this doctrine, a motion for a directed verdict or summary judgment cannot be granted if there is even the slightest amount of relevant evidence, which implies that the matter will be sent to the jury if there is even the slightest amount of evidence supporting a legal claim. In federal and state courts, the scintilla of evidence doctrine is rarely used. The opposite concept is the substantial evidence rule, which requires a party to provide adequate relevant evidence to support a claim.

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]