[ mawr-uh-tawr-ee-uhm, -tohr-, mor- ]
/ 藢m蓴r 蓹藞t蓴r i 蓹m, -藞to蕣r-, 藢m蓲r- /
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noun, plural mor路a路to路ri路a [mawr-uh-tawr-ee-uh, -tohr-, mor-], /藢m蓴r 蓹藞t蓴r i 蓹, -藞to蕣r-, 藢m蓲r-/, mor路a路to路ri路ums.
a suspension of activity: a moratorium on the testing of nuclear weapons.
a legally authorized period to delay payment of money due or the performance of some other legal obligation, as in an emergency.
an authorized period of delay or waiting.
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Origin of moratorium

1870鈥75; <New Latin, Late Latin mor膩t艒rium, noun use of neuter of mor膩t艒riusmoratory
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, 漏 Random House, Inc. 2023


What does聽moratorium mean?

A moratorium is most commonly an official suspension or delay of some activity. Moratorium often specifically refers to the postponement of the requirement to make some kind of payment, such as rent.

Such moratoriums are often enacted during emergencies or other unusual circumstances in order to provide relief to people who have lost their usual source of income. Another kind of moratorium is imposed by governments or international bodies on particular activities, such as nuclear testing or offshore drilling.

Moratoriums are often temporary. They can be scheduled to end after a specified period of time, or they can be indefinite, meaning the end date will be decided later.

Moratorium is also used casually (often as part of a joke) to mean an informal ban on something that you want to stop, as in I think it鈥檚 time to put a moratorium on watching TV for a while, kids.聽

The correct plural of moratorium can be either moratoriums or moratoria. Technically speaking, moratoria is the Latin-based plural form of moratorium. (Many other Latin-derived words can be pluralized in the same way, but many are rarely used, such as stadia as the plural for stadium.)

Example: Due to the pandemic, some local governments have placed a moratorium on utility payments since so many people are out of work and won鈥檛 be able to pay their bills.

Where does聽moratorium come from?

The first records of moratorium come from the 1870s. It comes from the Late Latin mor膩t艒rius, meaning 鈥渢ending to delay鈥 or 鈥渁uthorizing delay of payment,鈥 from the Latin mora, meaning 鈥渄elay.鈥

Since its earliest usage, moratorium has referred to the legal postponement of something, especially payment. Moratoriums are usually official in some way, meaning they are backed by the government or some other regulatory institution. Companies can also enact moratoriums.

A moratorium is typically a way of hitting pause鈥攊t鈥檚 usually a delay or postponement, not a cancellation. Some moratoriums are scheduled for a set period of time, such as 60, 90, or 120 days. However, some moratoriums are indefinite, meaning they have no scheduled end date.

Moratoriums are usually imposed due to emergencies (like natural disasters) that disrupt people鈥檚 jobs and sources of income. For example, in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic causing many people to be out of work, some government bodies issued an eviction moratorium to temporarily prevent landlords from kicking tenants out of apartments for nonpayment of rent (especially since doing so would create a danger to the public by displacing people who might spread the virus). Moratoriums are often placed on payments themselves, such as rent, mortgage, loan, credit card, and utility payments. Somewhat conversely, insurance companies sometimes place moratoriums on purchasing new policies when a hurricane is about to hit an area.

A moratorium is typically different than a grace period, which is usually a period of time after a payment is due, such as on a loan, before late fees are charged or the loan is cancelled altogether. However, the exact definition of the term can differ depending on the situation or contract involved. The formal word forbearance refers to a similar situation, in which a creditor allows a payer some additional time to pay off a debt. On the other hand, the term loan waiver usually refers to the permanent forgiveness of all or part of a loan鈥攏ot simply the postponement of payments.

The related adjective moratory is used to describe things, such as moratory laws, that authorize a delay in payment.

Outside of its use to refer to postponing payments or delaying other obligations, moratorium is also commonly used to refer to a suspension of a certain activity, especially when officially enacted by a government body or international agreement. Moratoriums on nuclear testing and offshore drilling prohibit those activities during the period of the moratorium, which may be extended after that period ends. In the U.S., some states have imposed an indefinite moratorium on the execution or prisoners who have been sentenced to death. Because there is no specified end date, these moratoriums are typically understood as a step toward banning executions altogether鈥攔esuming them would require additional executive or legislative actions.

In 1969, American protesters engaged in massive demonstrations to demand an end to the Vietnam War in what became known as 鈥渢he Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam.鈥

Moratorium isn鈥檛 always used in such a serious way, though. It is also often used in a casual way to suggest an informal ban on something, as in Can we put a moratorium on using the word awesomesauce? In this sense, it鈥檚 typically intended as a funny way of saying Let鈥檚 stop doing that forever.

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What are some other forms related to moratorium?

  • moratoriums (plural)
  • moratoria (plural)

What are some synonyms for moratorium?

What are some words that share a root or word element with moratorium?聽

What are some words that often get used in discussing moratorium?

What is an聽eviction moratorium?

An eviction moratorium is an order that prohibits, under certain circumstances, landlords and property owners from evicting tenants, typically for not paying rent.

In 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order was intended to prevent people from losing a place to stay due to inability to pay rent upon losing income鈥攗ltimately to prevent further spread of the virus. The CDC鈥檚 moratorium did not release tenants from their requirement to pay rent and did not prohibit eviction for reasons beyond failure to pay rent, such as criminal activity.

The first CDC moratorium was issued on September 4, 2020, and was extended multiple times before expiring on July 31, 2021. At the time of its expiration, searches on Dictionary.com for the words eviction and moratorium increased.

On August 3, 2021, the CDC issued another eviction moratorium in response to a rise in cases related to the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus. The second moratorium was narrower, only applying to counties with significantly high rates of COVID-19 infections. It was set to be in effect until October 3, 2021.

How is聽moratorium used in real life?

Moratorium is commonly used to refer to official, legally authorized suspensions or postponements, especially involving payments on debts. It is also often used in a joking way to suggest a ban on something that one finds annoying.

Try using聽moratorium!

Which of the following terms is NOT a synonym of moratorium?

A. suspension
B. pause
C. postponement
D. endorsement

How to use moratorium in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for moratorium

/ (藢m蓲r蓹藞t蓴藧r瑟蓹m) /

noun plural -ria (-r瑟蓹) or -riums
a legally authorized postponement of the fulfilment of an obligation
an agreed suspension of activity

Derived forms of moratorium

moratory (藞m蓲r蓹t蓹r瑟, -tr瑟), adjective

Word Origin for moratorium

C19: New Latin, from Late Latin mor膩t艒rius dilatory, from mora delay
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition 漏 William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 漏 HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Cultural definitions for moratorium

[ (mawr-uh-tawr-ee-uhm) ]

A period of delay agreed to by parties to a dispute or parties who are negotiating. A moratorium may also be an authorized delay in the repayment of a loan, especially by a nation (as in a moratorium on war debts).

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright 漏 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.