Law. Often chattels. a movable article of personal property.
Often chattels. any article of tangible property other than land, buildings, and other things annexed to land.
a slave.

Origin of chattel

1175–1225; Middle English chatel < Old French. See cattle

Synonym study

1. See property. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for chattel

Contemporary Examples of chattel

Historical Examples of chattel

  • Many think that any chattel may be made an heirloom by any owner of it.

    The Eustace Diamonds

    Anthony Trollope

  • Sixty years had Uncle Bushrod given of faithful service to the house of Weymouth as chattel, servitor, and friend.

  • The holder of that boy only did what the laws allowed him to do, and his conduct was in perfect consistency with chattel slavery.

  • Nancy McDonald's no sort of chattel to be dealt with any way we fancy.

  • If a frantic legislature pronounces woman a chattel, has it no power, with returning reason, to take back the blasphemy?

    The Anti-Slavery Examiner, Omnibus

    American Anti-Slavery Society

British Dictionary definitions for chattel



(often plural) property law
  1. chattel personalan item of movable personal property, such as furniture, domestic animals, etc
  2. chattel realan interest in land less than a freehold, such as a lease
goods and chattels personal property

Word Origin for chattel

C13: from Old French chatel personal property, from Medieval Latin capitāle wealth; see capital 1
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 chattel

early 13c., chatel "property, goods," from Old French chatel "chattels, goods, wealth, possessions, property; profit; cattle," from Late Latin capitale "property" (see cattle, which is the Old North French form of the same word). Application to slaves (1640s) is a rhetorical figure of abolitionists, etc.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper