nexum (nek-s<<schwa>>m), n.[Latin] Roman law. A transaction or practice of early Roman law under which a debtor, upon a failure to repay the debt, could be seized and held in bondage until the debt was repaid. • This practice was allowed in very early Roman law.
“Nexum. This highly controversial matter will be briefly dealt with as nexum had long been obsolete in classical law. Little is really known of it: it has been doubted whether there ever was such an institution. No text tells us that there was a contract called nexum …. But we have texts which speak of nexum as creative of obligation … and many literary texts dealing with debtors who were nexi, so that it may be taken as certain that there was such a transaction … which in some way reduced debtors to a sort of slavery, that great hardships resulted and that a l. Poetelia… practically ended this state of things, presumably by requiring an actual judgment before seizure. The effect was not to abolish nexum, but, by depriving it of its chief value, the power of seizure … to leave it with no advantages to counterbalance its clumsiness, so that it went out of use.” W.W. Buckland, A Text-Book of Roman Law from Augustus to Justinian 429–30 (Peter Stein ed., 3d ed.
[Blacks Law 8th]