eminent domain


Definition of eminent domain

: a right of a government to take private property for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of the sovereign power over all lands within its jurisdiction

Examples of eminent domain in a Sentence

The state took the homes by eminent domain to build the new road.

Recent Examples on the Web

The action, a recommendation to the Village Board, paves the way for the community potentially to exercise a controversial use of eminent domain power to acquire land from holdout property owners. Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Village of Mount Pleasant moves toward declaring Foxconn site a 'blighted area'," 9 May 2018 Disputes between far-flung relatives often prevented the unanimity needed to sell property, and the government lacked the power to declare eminent domain and intervene. Ben Hubbard, New York Times, "Walking Tour of a City’s History, Assassinations Included," 7 Feb. 2018 But eminent domain takings must be for public purposes. BostonGlobe.com, "Should Massachusetts allow cities and towns to create Community Benefit Districts?," 13 July 2018 Across the country activists are speaking out against the use of eminent domain to construct natural-gas pipelines. Robert Mcnamara And, WSJ, "Pipeline Builders Abuse Eminent Domain," 19 July 2018 The law aims to save Stoneleigh — and other preserved land like it — from a potential hostile takeover by any school district wielding the power of eminent domain. Maria Panaritis, Philly.com, "'They almost need therapists': How the fight to save Stoneleigh brought Pa. zombie pols back to life, too | Maria Panaritis," 28 June 2018 The city and the state collude to use eminent domain in ways that really are unconstitutional. Rebecca Jennings, Vox, "Not even shopping locally can save your favorite mom-and-pop — the problem is much, much bigger than that.," 21 Nov. 2018 The property is next to golf course land that the Carlson family once owned, and was the focus of an eminent domain case with the town. Jesse Leavenworth, Courant Community, "Housing Development Proposed In Manchester Near Glastonbury Line," 12 July 2018 Two-thirds of the survey respondents agreed with the statement that the use of condemnation (eminent domain) to acquire pipeline right of ways would increase their opposition to the project. Ted Sickinger, OregonLive.com, "Survey: Oregonians oppose Coos Bay gas export project," 26 May 2018

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

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First Known Use of eminent domain

1783, in the meaning defined above

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Statistics for eminent domain

Last Updated

15 May 2019

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The first known use of eminent domain was in 1783

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eminent domain


Financial Definition of eminent domain

What It Is

Eminent domain is a legal strategy that allows a federal or local government to seize private property for public use. The seizing authority must pay fair market value for the property seized.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe lives in a house on one acre next to Highway 47. The state wants to widen the road due to the higher traffic and the new casino that was built down the road. In order to widen the road, the state needs the space on either side of the road.

Because the state deems the road necessary, it seizes John's property and gives him $250,000 for it. John does not have the opportunity to say no, though he can challenge whether the $250,000 is fair market value.

The police power of local and federal governments generally is what gives them the authority to seize property for public use. The fifth and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution permit the government to exercise its power of eminent domain and requires "just compensation" for seized property.

In some cases, the property owner starts the eminent domain proceedings. This is called inverse condemnation, and property owners typically apply it when a government has used a property without just compensation (typically, this happens when the government has polluted the property).

Why It Matters

Eminent domain is a controversial topic. Though taking property may be necessary for the public good (particularly in the case of health and safety), it is sometimes difficult to forcibly separate a person from his or her property. Additionally, there is considerable question regarding whether implementing additional heavy regulations on a particular property is effectively the same as seizing the property because it significantly reduces the owner's "use and enjoyment" of the property, and thus entitles the owner to just compensation. Last, there is considerable controversy about what constitutes valid public use. For instance, some courts have allowed cities to clear bad-looking neighborhoods simply to beautify the town. Others have allowed governments to seize property and give it to businesses that build factories or other job-creating facilities on the property.

Source: Investing Answers

eminent domain


English Language Learners Definition of eminent domain

law : a right of a government to take private property for public use

eminent domain

em·​i·​nent do·​main | \ ˈe-mə-nənt-\

Legal Definition of eminent domain

: the right of the government to take property from a private owner for public use by virtue of the superior dominion of its sovereignty over all lands within its jurisdiction — see also condemn, expropriate, take sense 1b

Note: The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate the owner of property taken by eminent domain, stating “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” State constitutions contain similar provisions requiring that the property owner receive just compensation for the property taken.

More from Merriam-Webster on eminent domain

Britannica English: Translation of eminent domain for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about eminent domain

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one that collects or salvages junk

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