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Government power to take private property for public use without the owner's consent. Constitutional provisions in most countries, including the U.S. (in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution), require the payment of just compensation to the owner. As a power peculiar to sovereign authority and coupled with a duty to pay compensation, the concept was developed by such 17th-century natural-law jurists as Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf. See alsoconfiscation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on eminent domain, visit Britannica.com.