• synonyms

Star Chamber

  1. a former court of inquisitorial and criminal jurisdiction in England that sat without a jury and that became noted for its arbitrary methods and severe punishments, abolished 1641.
  2. any tribunal, committee, or the like, which proceeds by arbitrary or unfair methods.
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Origin of Star Chamber

Middle English word dating back to 1350–1400
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for star chamber

Historical Examples of star chamber

  • We met at the Star-chamber about exchange and release of prisoners.

    The Diary of John Evelyn, Volume II (of 2)

    John Evelyn

  • The decrees of the Star-chamber were taken as the basis of 13 and 14 Car.

  • Yet then he oft forgets his journey's end, although he look on the Star-Chamber.

  • No star-chamber court, no secret inquisition, in this nineteenth century, can ever be made acceptable to the American mind.

  • The bonds of many a great baron, the relics of many an abbey, lay pledged for security in the "Star-chamber" of the Jew.

British Dictionary definitions for star chamber

Star Chamber

  1. English history the Privy Council sitting as a court of equity, esp powerful under the Tudor monarchs; abolished 1641
  2. (sometimes not capitals) any arbitrary tribunal dispensing summary justice
  3. (sometimes not capitals) (in Britain, in a Conservative government) a group of senior ministers who make the final decision on the public spending of each government department
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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 star chamber

Star Chamber


late 14c., apartment in the royal palace at Westminster in which members of the king's council sat to exercise jurisdiction 14-15c., it evolved 15c. into a court of criminal jurisdiction, proverbial under James I and Charles I for arbitrary and oppressive proceedings. Abolished 1641. Supposedly so called because gilt stars were painted on the ceiling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

star chamber in Culture

Star Chamber

A royal court that began in England in the Middle Ages; cases were heard there without juries. Under the early Stuart kings, it was known for its tyrannical judgments. The name came from the courtroom's ceiling, which was painted with stars.

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Star Chamber is used as a general descriptive term for arbitrary tactics by a judge.
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.