at·​tain·​der | \ ə-ˈtān-dər How to pronounce attainder (audio) \

Definition of attainder

1 : extinction of the civil rights and capacities of a person upon sentence of death or outlawry usually after a conviction of treason
2 obsolete : dishonor

Examples of attainder in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Cromwell was declared guilty of treason by an act of attainder and so followed his own victims to the block. Allan Massie, WSJ, 2 Nov. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'attainder.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of attainder

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for attainder

Middle English attaynder, from Anglo-French ateindre conviction, from infinitive of ateindre

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The first known use of attainder was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Attainder.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

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at·​tain·​der | \ ə-ˈtān-dər How to pronounce attainder (audio) \

Legal Definition of attainder

: the termination of the civil rights of a person upon a sentence of death or outlawry for treason or a felony — see also bill of attainder at bill sense 1, corruption of blood

Note: In English law up to the nineteenth century, attainder was the harsh consequence of conviction for treason or a felony. It resulted in the forfeiture of the convicted person's property. It also involved corruption of blood, which barred the person from inheriting, retaining, or passing title, rank, or property. A person outlawed lost the right to seek protection under the law. Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution prohibits corruption of blood or forfeiture upon a conviction for treason “except during the life of the person attainted,” and Article I, Section 9 prohibits bills of attainder. Attainder was abolished in England in 1870.

History and Etymology for attainder

Anglo-French atteinder, from ateindre to convict, sentence, literally, to reach, attain, ultimately from Latin attingere to reach, from ad to + tangere to touch

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