[ in-kwuh-zish-uhn, ing- ]
/ ˌɪn kwəˈzɪʃ ən, ˌɪŋ- /
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Origin of inquisition

1350–1400; Middle English inquisicio(u)n<Latin inquīsītiōn- (stem of inquīsītiō), equivalent to inquīsīt(us) past participle of inquīrere to inquire + -iōn--ion
in·qui·si·tion·al, adjectivepre·in·qui·si·tion, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for inquisition (1 of 2)

/ (ˌɪnkwɪˈzɪʃən) /


the act of inquiring deeply or searchingly; investigation
a deep or searching inquiry, esp a ruthless official investigation of individuals in order to suppress revolt or root out the unorthodox
an official inquiry, esp one held by a jury before an officer of the Crown
another word for inquest (def. 2)
inquisitional, adjectiveinquisitionist, noun
C14: from legal Latin inquīsītiō, from inquīrere to seek for; see inquire

British Dictionary definitions for inquisition (2 of 2)

/ (ˌɪnkwɪˈzɪʃən) /


history a judicial institution of the Roman Catholic Church (1232–1820) founded to discover and suppress heresySee also Spanish Inquisition
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

Cultural definitions for inquisition


A court established by the Roman Catholic Church in the thirteenth century to try cases of heresy and other offenses against the church. Those convicted could be handed over to the civil authorities for punishment, including execution.

The Inquisition was most active in Spain, especially under Tomás de Torquemada (see also Torquemada); its officials sometimes gained confessions through torture. It did not cease operation in the Spanish Empire until the nineteenth century.
By association, a harsh or unjust trial or interrogation may be called an “inquisition.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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