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noun Law.
  1. fraud by a master or crew at the expense of the owners of the ship or its cargo.
  2. the offense of frequently exciting and stirring up lawsuits and quarrels.
  3. the purchase or sale of ecclesiastical preferments or of offices of state.
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Also barretry.

Origin of barratry

1400–50; late Middle English barratrie < Anglo-French, Middle French baraterie combat, fighting. See barrator, -ery
Related formsbar·ra·trous, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for barratry

Historical Examples

  • He looked at barratry from every side, and the more he looked the less he seemed to like it.

    Wild Justice: Stories of the South Seas

    Lloyd Osbourne

  • The diverting a ship from her right course, with evil intent, is barratry.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

  • But as yet there is nothing but his own raving to convict him of barratry.

    Mary Anerley

    R. D. Blackmore

  • For barratry and major sea-crimes, the penalty was death and dismemberment.


    David W. Bone

  • But of all sins, that of “barratry” was one of the most hateful to him.

British Dictionary definitions for barratry



  1. criminal law (formerly) the vexatious stirring up of quarrels or bringing of lawsuits
  2. maritime law a fraudulent practice committed by the master or crew of a ship to the prejudice of the owner or charterer
  3. Scots law the crime committed by a judge in accepting a bribe
  4. the purchase or sale of public or Church offices
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Derived Formsbarratrous or barretrous, adjectivebarratrously or barretrously, adverb

Word Origin

C15: from Old French baraterie deception, from barater to barter
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

Word Origin and History for barratry


early 15c., "sale of ecclesiastical or state offices," from Old French baraterie "deceit, guile, trickery," from barat "malpractice, fraud, deceit, trickery," of unknown origin, perhaps from Celtic. In marine law, "wrongful conduct by a ship's crew or officer, resulting in loss to owners," from 1620s. Meaning "offense of habitually starting legal suits" is from 1640s. Sense somewhat confused with that of Middle English baratri "combat, fighting" (c.1400), from Old Norse baratta "fight, contest strife." This was an active word in Middle English, with forms such as baraten "to disturb the peace" (mid-15c.); baratour "inciter to riot, bully" (late 14c., mid-13c. as a surname). Barataria Bay, Louisiana, U.S., is from Spanish baratear "to cheat, deceive," cognate of the French word; the bay so called in reference to the difficulty of its entry passages.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper