• synonyms


noun Law.
  1. the condition of lands or tenements held without right of alienation, as by an ecclesiastical corporation; inalienable ownership.
  2. the perpetual holding of land, especially by a corporation or charitable trust.
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Origin of mortmain

1250–1300; Middle English mort(e)mayn(e) < Anglo-French mortemain, translation of Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for mortmain

Historical Examples of mortmain

  • As some compensation, the Mortmain Act was suspended for twenty years.

    The Reign of Mary Tudor

    W. Llewelyn Williams.

  • It was in his time that the famous Statute of Mortmain was passed.

  • Such is the parallel between the mortmain of the two corporations.

  • He extended his hand, but Mortmain had thrust his own into his trousers' pockets.


    Arthur Cheny Train

  • Mortmain's anger had been followed by the reaction of despair.


    Arthur Cheny Train

British Dictionary definitions for mortmain


  1. law the state or condition of lands, buildings, etc, held inalienably, as by an ecclesiastical or other corporation
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Word Origin for mortmain

C15: from Old French mortemain, from Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand, inalienable ownership
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 mortmain


"inalienable ownership," mid-15c., from Anglo-French morte mayn, Old French mortemain, literally "dead hand," from Medieval Latin mortua manus; see mortal (adj.) + manual (adj.). Probably a metaphorical expression.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper