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

Others were pushing for the city to acquire the building through eminent domain. Chris Jones, chicagotribune.com, "Uptown Theatre will be restored: $75 million plan unveiled for grand palace on North Side," 28 June 2018 After state lawmakers passed legislation this month allowing the state to use eminent domain for the project, officials are moving forward with an environmental study for the AirTrain. New York Times, "Plans for AirTrain to La Guardia Airport Move Ahead Amid Criticism," 25 June 2018 Los Angeles County won ownership of the lot through eminent domain in April. Laura J. Nelson, latimes.com, "Building L.A.'s rail system will create thousands of jobs. Can a transportation boarding school fill them?," 18 June 2018 Waltham’s school enrollment has grown by nearly one-fifth in the past decade, and the City Council voted to invoke eminent domain to take a large tract of land owned by the Catholic Stigmatine order for a new high school. Tim Logan, BostonGlobe.com, "Live where you work? In Waltham, that’s not so easy," 8 July 2018 Invoking eminent domain, the pipeline builders offered to compensate the Terrys. Gregory S. Schneider, The Seattle Times, "Mother, daughter perch in trees to block Virginia pipeline," 22 Apr. 2018 Invoking eminent domain, the pipeline builders offered to compensate the Terrys for using a stretch of their land. The Washington Post, NOLA.com, "Perched on a platform high in a tree, a 61-year-old Virginia woman fights a gas pipeline," 21 Apr. 2018 Invoking eminent domain, the pipeline builders offered to compensate the Terrys for using a stretch of their land. Gregory S. Schneider, Washington Post, "Perched on a platform high in a tree, a 61-year-old woman fights a gas pipeline," 21 Apr. 2018 But Big Bend residents said the city, which receives the money from IEMA to administer the buyouts, forces their hand with lowball offers and the threat of invoking eminent domain. Patrick M. O'connell, chicagotribune.com, "New tech suggests more homes near Des Plaines River at risk of flooding," 20 Apr. 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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2 Oct 2018

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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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