What is Prescription?

Legal Definition
Prescription, in international law, is sovereignty transfer of a territory by the open encroachment by the new sovereign upon the territory for a prolonged period of time, acting as the sovereign, without protest or other contest by the original sovereign. It is analogous to the common law doctrine of easement by prescription for private real estate. This doctrine legalizes de jure the de facto transfer of sovereignty caused in part by the original sovereign's extended negligence and/or neglect of the area in question. Principle of prescription applied in Island of Palmas Case and Minquiers and Ecrehos case.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
The manner of acquiring property by a long, honest, and uninterrupted possession or use during the time required by law. The possession must have been possessio longa, continua, et pacifica, nec sit ligitima interruptio, long, continued, peaceable, and without lawful interruption. Domat, Loix Civ. liv. 3, t. 29, s. 1; Bract. 52, 222, 226; Co. Litt. 113, b; Pour pouvoir prescire, says the Code Civil, 1. 3, t. 20, art. 22, 29, il faut une possession continue et non interrompue, paisible, publique, et a titre de proprietaire. See Knapp's R. 79.

2. The law presumes a grant before the time of legal memory when the party claiming by prescription, or those from whom he holds, have had adverse or uninterrupted possession of the property or rights claimed by prescription. This presumption may be a mere fiction, the commencement of the user being tor-tious; no prescription can, however, be sustained, which is not consistent with such a presumption.

3. Twenty years uninterrupted user of a way is prima facie evidence of a prescrptive right. 1 Saund. 323, a; 10 East, 476; 2 Br. & Bing. 403; Cowp. 215; 2 Wils. 53. The subject of prescription are the several kinds of incorporeal rights. Vide, generally, 2 Chit. Bl. 35, n. 24; Amer. Jurist, No. 37, p. 96; 17 Vin. Ab. 256; 7 com. Dig. 93; Rutherf. Inst. 63; Co. Litt. 113; 2 Conn. R. 584; 9 conn. R. 162; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.

4. The Civil Code Louisiana, art. 3420, defines a prescription to be a manner of acquiring property, or of discharging debts, by the effect of time, and under the conditions regulated by law. For the law relating to prescription in that state, see Code, art. 8420 to 3521. For the difference between the meaning of the term prescription as understood by the common law, and the same term in the civil law, see 1 Bro. Civ. Law, 246.

5. The prescription which has the effect to liberate a creditor, is a mere bar which the debtor may oppose to the creditor, who has neglected to exercise his rights, or procured them to be acknowledged during the time prescribed by law. The debtor acquires this right without any act on his part, it resalts entirely from the negligence of the creditor. The prescription does not extinguish the debt, it merely places a bar in the hands of the debtor, which he may use or not at his choice against the creditor. The debtor may therefore abandon this defence, which has been acquired by mere lapse of time, either by paying the debt, or acknowledging it. If he pay it, he cannot recover back the money so paid, and if he acknowledge it, he may be constrained to pay it. Poth. Intr. au titre xiv. des Prescriptions, Bect. 2. Vide Bouv. Inst. Theo. pars prima, c. 1, art. 1, 4, s. 3; Limitations.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A mode of acquiring title to incorporeal hereditaments grounded on the fact of immemorial or long-continued enjoyment. See Lucas v. Turnpike Co., 36 W. Va. 427, 15 S. E. 182; Gayetty v. Bethune, 14 Mass. 52, 7 Am. Dec. 188; Louisville & N. R. Co. v. Hays, 11 Lea (Tenn.) 388, 47 Am. Rep. '291; Clarke v. Clarke, 133 Cal. 667, 66 Pac. 10; Alhambra Addition Water Co. v. Richardson, 72 Cal. 598, 14 Pac. 379; Stevens v. Dennett, 51 N. H. 329. Title by prescription is the right which a possessor acquires to property by reason of the continuance of his possession for a period of time fixed by the laws. Code Ga. 1882, § 2678. "Prescription" is the term usually applied to incorporeal hereditaments, while "adverse possession" is applied to lands. Hindley v. Metropolitan El. R. Co., 42 Misc. Rep. 56, 85 N. Y. Supp. 561. In Louisiana, prescription is defined ds a manner of acquiring the ownership of property, or discharging debts, by the effect of time, and under the conditions regulated by law. Each of these prescriptions has its special and particniar definition. The prescription by which the ownership of property is acquired, is a right by which a mere possessor acquires the ownership of a thing which he possesses by the continuance of his possession during the time fixed by law. The prescription by which debts are released, ls a peremptory and perpetual bar to every species of action, real or personal, when the creditor has been silent for a certain time without urging his claim. Civ. Co.de La. arte. 3457-3459. In this sense of the term It is very nearly equivalent to what is elsewhere expressed by "limitation of actions," or rather, the "bar of the statute of limitations." "Prescription" and "custom" are frequently confounded in common parlance, arising perhaps from the fact that immemorial usage was essential to both of them; but, strictly, they materially differ from one another, in that custom is properly a local impersonal usage, such as borough-English, or postremogeniture, which is annexed to a given estate, while prescription is simply personal, as that a certain man and his ancestors, or those whose estate he enjoys, bave immemorially exercised a right of pasture-common in a certain parish. Again, prescription has its origin in a grant, evidenced by usage, and is allowed on account of its loss, either actual or supposed, and therefore only those things can be prescribed for which could be raised by a grant previously to 8 & 9 Viet. c. 106, § 2; but this principle does not necessarily hold in the case of a custom. Wharton. The difference between "prescription," "custom," and "usage" is also thus stated: "Prescription hath respect to a certain person who, by intendment, may have continuance forever, as, for instance, he and all they whose estate he hath in such a thing, this is a prescription ; while custom is local, and always applied to a certain place, and is common to all; while usage differs from both, for it may be either to persons or places." Jacob.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
A title acquired by use and time and allowed by law. See 2 McCord (S. C.), 445, 13 Am. Dec. 741.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary