Meaning: Latent ambiguity of words may be supplied by evidence ; for ambiguity arising upon tbe deed is removed by proof of the deed.
This rule applies to written instruments ; and ambiguitas latens (latent, or hidden, ambiguity) is where the writing appears to be free from ambiguity, but by some extrinsic evidence or matter dehors the instrument is shown not to be so ; and, inasmuch as the ambiguity arises by evidence dehors the instrument, so it may in the same manner be removed.
The following are examples : If A. devise to his son B., he having two sons of that name ; or to I. E., the daughter of A., by the initial letters only, and A. have two daughters whose names will bear those initials, evidence will be admitted to show which of the two was intended. So where a testator gave and bequeathed to his son E, F, all that dwelling-house, etc, then in the occupation of his son I during his natural life, and at his death to descend to his grandson H, F, the claimant, who was the son of testator's son E, and the defendant, who was the son of the testator's son I; it was held that there was a latent ambiguity in the will as to which of the two grandsons the testator meant to devise the house, and that parol evidence was admissible to explain it.
Ambiguilas patens (patent, or open, ambiguity) is where the ambiguity is plainly perceptible upon the face of the document under consideration, and is not raised by extrinsic evidence, in which case parol evidence will not be admitted to explain such ambiguity; and the case usually given to illustrate this is where a testator makes a devise, but omits to insert the name of the devisee; in such case the devise will fail, for parol or extrinsic evidence will not be admitted to explain such an ambiguity, as, in such case, to admit parol evidence to show who the testator meant to take as devisee would be to make a devise which the testator himself had not made. So, also, where the names of the devisees in a will of real property were all indicated only by single letters, it was held that a card kept by the testator separate from his will, containing '•' a key to the letters, and showing the person meant by each, was inadmissible to show the parties intended to take, although the card was referred to by the testator in the will. But where the ambiguity is not so plainly perceptible, consisting rather of words ambiguously expressed, but capable of being explained, evidence will be admitted to remove the apparent ambiguity of words. Still, as it is not permitted to wander out of the instrument to remove a patent ambiguity, so the least departure from the principle of construction adopted in the instances just given leads to another rule, namely, that applicable to ambiguitas latens.