Definition of grandfather clause in English:

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grandfather clause

Pronunciation: /ˈɡran(d)fäT͟Hər ˈˌklôz/


North American informal
A clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges, or practices.
Example sentences
  • It also allowed claimholders to sell the claims to new owners who could take advantage of the grandfather clause.
  • A $10 minimum wage with a grandfather clause would be equally bad.
  • Built in the early 1960s, the building was not equipped with automatic fire sprinklers because of a so-called grandfather clause that didn't require older buildings to undergo the equipment renovation.


Early 20th century: so called because under constitutional clauses in some southern states, permitting whites to vote and disenfranchising blacks, the descendants of those voting before 1867 were permitted to vote without having to meet certain stringent conditions.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: grand·fa·ther clause

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