1. the reverting of property to the state or some agency of the state, or, as in England, to the lord of the fee or to the crown, when there is a failure of persons legally qualified to inherit or to claim.
  2. the right to take property subject to escheat.
verb (used without object)
  1. to revert by escheat, as to the crown or the state.
verb (used with object)
  1. to make an escheat of; confiscate.

Origin of escheat

1250–1300; Middle English eschete < Old French eschete, escheoite, feminine past participle of escheoir < Vulgar Latin *excadēre to fall to a person's share, equivalent to Latin ex- ex-1 + cadere to fall (Vulgar Latin cadēre)
Related formses·cheat·a·ble, adjectiveun·es·cheat·a·ble, adjectiveun·es·cheat·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for escheat

Historical Examples of escheat

  • Chamberlain wrote on January 10, 1608, to Escheat of Sherborne.

    Sir Walter Ralegh

    William Stebbing

  • “You dare not escheat his estates yet,” replied the prior stubbornly.

  • And the estates of the rebels, they escheat to the temples of the insulted gods?


    William Henry Withrow

  • And we will hold the escheat in the same manner in which the baron held it.

  • It will be remembered, also, that the animals which the Scotch law forfeited were escheat to the king.

    The Common Law

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

British Dictionary definitions for escheat


  1. (in England before 1926) the reversion of property to the Crown in the absence of legal heirs
  2. (in feudal times) the reversion of property to the feudal lord in the absence of legal heirs or upon outlawry of the tenant
  3. the property so reverting
  1. to take (land) by escheat or (of land) to revert by escheat
Derived Formsescheatable, adjectiveescheatage, noun

Word Origin for escheat

C14: from Old French eschete, from escheoir to fall to the lot of, from Late Latin excadere (unattested), from Latin cadere to fall
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 escheat

the reverting of land to a king or lord in certain cases, early 14c., from Anglo-French eschete (late 13c.), from Old French eschete "succession, inheritance," originally fem. past participle of escheoir, from Late Latin *excadere "to fall out," from Latin ex- "out, away" (see ex-) + cadere "to fall" (see case (n.1)). As a verb, from late 14c. Related: Escheated; escheating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper