What "Age of Majority" Means: Its Definition & Usage

Age of Majority Definitions by US States and Canadian Provinces (with Charts)

Image of an 18th Birthday Candle
Many Reach Age of Majority on Their 18th Birthday. Image (c) Victoria Gardner / EyeEm / Getty Images

What Is Age of Majority?

The definition of "age of majority" is the age at which a child legally becomes an adult. Where this line is drawn varies from country to country and even from state to state.

Hint: If you want to check the age of majority in your state or province, scroll down to the charts at the bottom of the page.

Many sweepstakes only let people who have reached the age of majority in their state or province enter and win.

For example, the rules might state: "To enter, you must be a resident of the United States or Canadia above the age of majority in your state or province."

But what does that term really mean? How old do you have to be to be above the age of majority?

We use the word "majority" because the law considers adults to be responsible for the majority of their actions. Not all of them, of course. Some actions are out of anyone's control, like getting sick or dying, for example. But when you are old enough to be held legally responsible for most of your actions, you've crossed the age of majority.

You're probably already familiar with the converse: "minors" as another word for children. Legally, the term "minor" indicates that a person is still in the "age of minority," which means that he or she is only legally responsible for the minority of their actions. The parents or legal guardians are responsible for the majority of children's actions.

Why Age of Majority Is Important for Entering Contests

Sweepstakes only allow people who are above the age of majority to enter because they want to ensure that only adults participate in their giveaway.

Why? One good reason is that minors cannot legally enter into contracts, so they cannot agree to be bound by the rules.

The rules protect both the entrants and the sweepstakes' sponsors, so it's important that both sides can legally agree to be bound by them.

Another good reason for sweepstakes to allow only adults to enter is that many countries (including Canada and the United States) have special laws governing advertisements for children.

What is the Age of Majority in the United States?

In the United States, age of majority is determined by state, not federal, law. That means that each state can decide at which age children become adults.

18 is the most common age of majority among the U.S. states. Some states grant majority after a citizen passes high school, while others have chosen a later age. Here is the full list:

Age of Majority by U.S. State

StateAge of Majority
Arkansas18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later
District of Columbia18
New Hampshire18
New Mexico18
Nevada18, or if still in high school at 18, 19 or graduation, whichever comes sooner
New Jersy18
New York18
North Carolina18
North Dakota18
Ohio18 or graduation from high school, whichever comes first
Rhode Island18
South Carolina18
South Dakota18
Tennessee18 or graduation from high school, whichever is later
Utah18 or graduation from high school, whichever is earlier
West Virginia18
Wisconsin18, or if still in high school at 18, 19 or graduation, whichever comes sooner


When Is Someone a Legal Adult in Canada?

Many Canadian sweepstakes (or contests, as they're generally called in Canada) don't allow people who are under the age of majority to enter.

To ensure that no minors will enter, some contests choose to simply restrict entry so that only Canadians over the age of 19 are allowed to enter since that covers all of the provinces. Others will simply state that they prohibit entry from anyone under the age of majority, and leave it up to each entrant to know whether that applies to them or not.

To help, here's a chart showing the age of majority in each province:

Age of Majority in Canadian Provinces:

Canadian ProvinceAge of Majority
British Columbia19
New Brunswick18
Newfoundland and Labrador19
Northwest Territories19
Nova Scotia19
Prince Edward Island18

Majority Isn't Always Defined by Age:

In special cases, factors other than age can determine when a child becomes an adult. For example, if a judge declares a minor emancipated, that person also receives majority and are considered responsible for their actions. Many regions also give majority to minors who marry or who join the armed forces.

This is why you might see some sweepstakes rules state that you can enter if you are 18 or older and above the age of majority. In those cases, someone under the age of 18 who is an emancipated minor would still not be able to enter.

Want to know more about interesting sweepstakes laws?

Or maybe you'd be interested in learning more about sweepstakes terminology? Or new sweepstakes to enter?

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