Definition of mortmain in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmɔːtmeɪn/


[mass noun] Law
The status of lands or tenements held inalienably by an ecclesiastical or other corporation.
Example sentences
  • The rest was in the hands of the Church and nobility, protected against sale by entail or mortmain, or owned by urban corporations, or bourgeois landowners.
  • Hospitals and poor houses found the charitable bequests on which they had always relied dwindling, and, as ecclesiastical institutions, they were cut off from further endowments by legislation of 1749 restricting mortmain.
  • All Catholic governments tightened up legislation against mortmain.


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French, Old French mortemain, from medieval Latin mortua manus 'dead hand' (probably alluding to impersonal ownership).

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: mort|main

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