grandfather clause

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noun
  1. U.S. History. a clause in the constitutions of some Southern states after 1890 intended to permit whites to vote while disfranchising blacks: it exempted from new literacy and property qualifications for voting those men entitled to vote before 1867 and their lineal descendants.
  2. any legal provision that exempts a business, class of persons, etc., from a new government regulation that would affect prior rights and privileges.

Origin of grandfather clause

An Americanism dating back to 1895–1900
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for grandfather clause

grandfather clause

noun
  1. US history a clause in the constitutions of several Southern states that waived electoral literacy requirements for lineal descendants of people voting before 1867, thus ensuring the franchise for illiterate White people: declared unconstitutional in 1915
  2. a clause in legislation that forbids or regulates an activity so that those engaged in it are exempted from the ban
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