gar·​nish·​ment | \ ˈgär-nish-mənt How to pronounce garnishment (audio) \

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)

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Examples of garnishment in a Sentence

a high-end caterer whose dishes feature an array of over-the-top garnishments
Recent Examples on the Web In Alabama, state law does not protect a living wage from garnishment. al, "Alabamians have little protection from asset seizures for unpaid debt, report finds," 19 Nov. 2019 Defaulting on a loan can result in wage garnishment or having your income-tax refunds or even Social Security payments reduced or withheld by the government, Ferastoaru said. Russ Wiles, azcentral, "Student loan debt: Strategies to pay it off faster, smarter," 3 Nov. 2019 Those cases strain court systems and often end in wage garnishments for patients. Sarah Kliff, New York Times, "With Medical Bills Skyrocketing, More Hospitals Are Suing for Payment," 8 Nov. 2019 Some states have reformed their laws, to make sure defendants are properly served or to prohibit wage garnishments for debt. Lizzie Presser, ProPublica, "When Medical Debt Collectors Decide Who Gets Arrested," 16 Oct. 2019 The study examined hospital lawsuits that resulted in wage garnishment for unpaid bills. Stephanie Armour, WSJ, "When Patients Can’t Pay, Many Hospitals Are Suing," 25 June 2019 Just five hospitals accounted for half of the resulting wage garnishments in the state. Laura Beil, New York Times, "The Hospital Treated These Patients. Then It Sued Them.," 3 Sep. 2019 The dollar amount of the garnishment is included in each of these docket entries. ProPublica, "How We Tallied Medical Debt Lawsuits and Wage Garnishments in Memphis," 27 June 2019 More than 9,300 garnishment cases occurred that year, and nonprofit hospitals were more likely to garnish wages. Wendi C. Thomas, ProPublica, "The Nonprofit Hospital That Makes Millions, Owns a Collection Agency and Relentlessly Sues the Poor," 27 June 2019

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.

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First Known Use of garnishment

1550, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for garnishment

(sense 1) garnish entry 1 + -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 garnish entry 1

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Time Traveler for garnishment

Time Traveler

The first known use of garnishment was in 1550

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Statistics for garnishment

Last Updated

3 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Garnishment.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 20 January 2020.

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More Definitions for garnishment



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.

Source: Investing Answers


gar·​nish·​ment | \ ˈgär-nish-mənt How to pronounce garnishment (audio) \

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

More from Merriam-Webster on garnishment

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for garnishment Encyclopedia article about garnishment

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