Philadelphia lawyer


Phil·​a·​del·​phia lawyer ˌfi-lə-ˈdel-fyə- How to pronounce Philadelphia lawyer (audio)
: a lawyer knowledgeable in the most minute aspects of the law

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The reputation of the Philadelphia lawyer dates back to the colonial period, when our legal system was in its infancy and lawyers had to be especially astute. Many noted attorneys seem to have hailed from early Philadelphia, and probably no single lawyer is the source of the term, but several have been suggested. Although not strictly a lawyer, Benjamin Franklin is sometimes claimed to have inspired the expression through his cunning in diplomatic negotiations with the British and French. Another possible source is the Scottish-American Philadelphia attorney Andrew Hamilton, who famously got newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger acquitted of libel charges in 1735, paving the way for the principle of freedom of the press in the process.

Word History


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

First Known Use

1788, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of Philadelphia lawyer was in 1788


Dictionary Entries Near Philadelphia lawyer

Cite this Entry

“Philadelphia lawyer.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

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