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[mawrt-meyn] /ˈmɔrtˌmeɪn/
noun, Law.
the condition of lands or tenements held without right of alienation, as by an ecclesiastical corporation; inalienable ownership.
the perpetual holding of land, especially by a corporation or charitable trust.
Origin of mortmain
1250-1300; Middle English mort(e)mayn(e) < Anglo-French mortemain, translation of Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for mortmain
Historical Examples
  • As some compensation, the mortmain Act was suspended for twenty years.

    The Reign of Mary Tudor W. Llewelyn Williams.
  • It was in his time that the famous Statute of mortmain was passed.

  • Such is the parallel between the mortmain of the two corporations.

  • mortmain's anger had been followed by the reaction of despair.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • He extended his hand, but mortmain had thrust his own into his trousers' pockets.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • Like a flash it occurred to mortmain that the solicitor had called to see him about the bankruptcy.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • A cold blast of air followed and mortmain's teeth chattered.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • All the windows were dark and mortmain clung sobbing to the nurse's arm.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • "Tell her I am coming," said mortmain, starting for the door.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
  • "I'm glad you're going to take that thing off again," said mortmain.

    Mortmain Arthur Cheny Train
British Dictionary definitions for mortmain


(law) the state or condition of lands, buildings, etc, held inalienably, as by an ecclesiastical or other corporation
Word Origin
C15: from Old French mortemain, from Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand, inalienable ownership
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mortmain

"inalienable ownership," mid-15c., from Anglo-French morte mayn, Old French mortemain, literally "dead hand," from Medieval Latin mortua manus; see mortal (adj.) + manual (adj.). Probably a metaphorical expression.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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