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

Opponents also accuse the company of using hardball tactics and intimidation to force reluctant landowners to sign easements, and specifically targeting vulnerable and elderly landowners with threats of eminent domain. oregonlive.com, "Jordan Cove LNG backers claim high support from landowners for pipeline," 26 June 2019 In a few places, Clean Line might need the federal government to use eminent domain to be able to build the transmission line. Russell Gold, WSJ, "Building the Wind Turbines Was Easy. The Hard Part Was Plugging Them In," 22 June 2019 The Alpharetta City Council has approved using eminent domain to acquire land necessary to complete a key segment of the Alpha Loop, a network of multi-use paths connecting downtown with developments around the city. David Ibata, ajc, "Alpharetta OKs using eminent domain to close Alpha Loop," 12 June 2019 And there may be no better learning experience in housing than having your home taken by the state by eminent domain. Joe Mathews, The Mercury News, "Mathews: Legislators should feel the housing crisis like the rest of us," 21 June 2019 Lawmakers forbid the district from taking any land by eminent domain. Jenny Staletovich, miamiherald, "Vast reservoir is key to state Everglades plan. Federal concerns could derail it," 5 June 2018 With eminent domain, the government can take your property for public use, so [for] a public hospital or an on-ramp or a public highway. 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 Last week, CRDA’s board delayed any discussion or vote on eminent domain until the issue was clarified with the GOP leaders in the Senate. Kenneth R. Gosselin, courant.com, "State Senate GOP Leader Weighs Push To Acquire Space At Hartford's XL Center," 31 May 2018 For the county to take the additional land through eminent domain proceedings, its value could be more than $4 million, with attorney fees and court costs on top of that, officials estimated. Larry Barszewski, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Broward agrees to pay $42 million for Shaw tree farm land," 20 Mar. 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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Last Updated

10 Jul 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

Comments on eminent domain

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an act or instance of editing or removing

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