“Scintilla” is a frequently-used legal term that is derived from a Latin word meaning “a spark.” It is used to describe how much evidence exists in the record to prove a particular fact.
When a court finds that there is not a scintilla of evidence to prove something that is in dispute, it is describing a quantity of evidence which is insignificantly small. In Texas law, a scintilla of evidence is the legal equivalent of no evidence at all, so it is said that if the evidence at trial amounts to no more than a mere scintilla, a party has presented insufficient evidence as a matter of law and cannot prevail on its legal claim.
Dictionaries use different words to describe this concept of a scintilla – a “trace,” a “particle,” an “iota” or a “trifle.” In case law, it is often described as a “mere surmise” or a “mere suspicion,” which is not enough to support a legal finding.
This author prefers to think of it in more whimsical terms – as a “scent-illa” – just a whiff of evidence in the air.
— Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352ndDistrict Court of Tarrant County,Texas