noun gar·nish·ment \ ˈgär-nish-mənt \

Definition of garnishment

2 : a legal summons or warning concerning the attachment of property to satisfy a debt
3 : a stoppage of a specified sum from wages to satisfy a creditor or a legal obligation (such as child support)

Examples of garnishment in a Sentence

  1. a high-end caterer whose dishes feature an array of over-the-top garnishments

Recent Examples of garnishment from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology of garnishment

(sense 1) 1garnish + -ment; (senses 2-3) borrowed from Anglo-French garnissement "warning, notification, notification concerning the attachment of property to satisfy a debt," from garniss-, stem of garnir "to give notice, warn, give legal summons" + -ment -ment — more at 1garnish

Financial Definition of GARNISHMENT


What It Is

Also called wage execution, a garnishment is a process under which money owed or paid to a borrower is given to a creditor instead.

How It Works

Let's say John Doe has stopped paying child support to his ex-wife. His ex-wife takes him to court for the money owed and obtains a garnishment, whereby the court seizes a portion of John's monthly paycheck and automatically gives it to his ex-wife.

One of the most common forms of garnishment is wage garnishment. Wage garnishment is often used to recoup back taxes, delinquent child support or judgments, and the courts have the ability to garnish not just wages, but bonuses, commissions, pension income and distributions from retirement plans. Welfare, unemployment, veterans benefits, social security income, workers compensation and child support payments generally cannot be garnished.

The Consumer Credit Protection Act prohibits employers from firing employees just because their earnings are being garnished, though there are exceptions.

Why It Matters

Garnishments generally require a court order, and they can destroy a person's credit rating. It is important to note that not all things can be garnished; state laws set forth the exemptions. Usually, state laws prohibit garnishing a person's assets to the extent that they leave the borrower with no way to support himself or herself.

Law Dictionary


noun gar·nish·ment \ ˈgär-nish-mənt \

legal Definition of garnishment

: a remedial device used by a creditor to have property of the debtor or money owed to the debtor that is in the possession of a third party attached to pay the debt to the creditor; specifically : attachment of the debtor's wages to satisfy a judgment — compare wage assignment at assignment

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