Definition of inquest in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɪnkwɛst/


1 Law A judicial inquiry to ascertain the facts relating to an incident.
Example sentences
  • The costs could continue to rise as the Ministry of Defence is considering applying for a judicial review of the inquest.
  • When being questioned in the inquest to this last incident, he is said to have given what I consider to be his most infamous saying yet.
  • In her opinion the incidents described at the inquest were not necessarily related to the school, but had links with the local community.
1.1British An inquiry by a coroner’s court into the cause of a death.
Example sentences
  • An initial inquest on the island returned a verdict of accidental death but a second inquest held at Bromley Magistrates' Court recorded an open verdict.
  • The Divisional Court directed the coroner to resume the inquest.
  • The matter has now been referred to the coroner and an inquest into the death will be held in due course.
1.2British A coroner’s jury.
Example sentences
  • The inquest consists of 11 eligible voters who review Prosecutors' decisions not to indict suspects.
  • The inquest was told that when the incident happened, the southbound GNER train was travelling at 117 mph.
  • The inquest also heard that an incident of her head shaking at an outpatient appointment had not been recorded in her medical notes.
2 informal A discussion or investigation into something that has happened, especially something undesirable: an inquest by New York newspapers into a subway fire
More example sentences
  • The company is carrying out its own investigation and an inquest was due to be opened this week.


Middle English from Old French enqueste, based on Latin inquirere (see enquire).

  • English words that come from Latin inquirere ‘to ask for information’ often have spellings with either en- or in-, with en- representing the older form acquired through French and in- a return to the Latin root. This is the case, for instance, with enquire (Middle English) or inquire (Late Middle English), enquiry (Late Middle English) or inquiry (mid 16th century), and used to apply to inquest, although the spelling enquest has not been used since the 18th century. In Britain an inquest is now usually an inquiry by a coroner's court into the cause of a death; formerly it could be any official inquiry into a matter of public interest.

    Another word from Latin inquirere is inquisition (Late Middle English). In the mid 13th century Pope Gregory IX established a tribunal for the suppression of heresy. This was the first Inquisition, which was active chiefly in northern Italy and southern France, and became notorious for the use of torture. In 1478 the Spanish Inquisition began to target converts from Judaism and Islam, later extending its reach to Protestants. It operated with great severity and was not suppressed until the early 19th century. Mention the word to many people, and they will immediately cry, ‘No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!’ The classic Monty Python sketch featured Michael Palin as Cardinal Ximinez, who appears suddenly with two junior cardinals when anyone innocently says, ‘I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition’.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: in|quest

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