grandfather clause

noun

plural grandfather clauses
: a clause creating an exemption based on circumstances previously existing
Hospital officials have asked for a grandfather clause for their heliports because without it, proposed zoning regulations would eliminate all city hospital helicopters.Dan Donovan
… his plan contained a grandfather clause. The fees would only apply to incoming students.Scott Sherman
… a friend, who is a landlord, started talking about "grandfather clauses" that would exempt him from making renovations when she asked him about making an apartment accessible.Mary Grimley Mason
specifically : a provision in several southern state constitutions designed to enfranchise poor white people and disenfranchise Black people by waiving high voting requirements for descendants of men voting before 1867
Several states, including Louisiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma, inserted "grandfather clauses" in their constitutions in order to permit persons, who could not otherwise qualify, to vote if their fathers or grandfathers could vote in 1866. John Hope Franklin

Examples of grandfather clause in a Sentence

Because of a grandfather clause, the strict emission standards only apply to new cars.
Recent Examples on the Web The grandfather clause that allows Ohio residents to continue existing treatments doesn’t extend to those from out of state. Anumita Kaur, Washington Post, 24 Jan. 2024 To make the bill more amenable to the state senate and ensure sufficient votes for an override, it was amended to include a grandfather clause for those currently receiving treatment, and to stipulate that only one parent had to consent to counseling related to gender treatment instead of both. Adam Mathews, National Review, 5 Jan. 2024 The legislation has a grandfather clause that allows minors who are already on medication to continue to receive care. Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 28 Dec. 2023 The bill would not apply to antique firearms or guns manufactured before 1968; a grandfather clause would allow someone with a ghost gun to either sell the firearm to a licensed dealer or have the weapon properly imprinted with a serial number by a federally licensed dealer. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2022 This list doesn’t even include Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Jim Banks’s introduction of a transgender military ban even more draconian than the one the Trump administration attempted to implement, which at least had a grandfather clause for people already serving. Brynn Tannehill, The New Republic, 24 Feb. 2023 The new law does include a grandfather clause. Daniel Dale, CNN, 7 May 2021 Canada eventually passed a bill in 2019 ending the captivity of whales and dolphins, however, Marineland was able to keep Kiska due to a grandfather clause that granted the park an exemption, per the Post. Kimberlee Speakman, Peoplemag, 11 Mar. 2023 Bottles printed without a label will still be sold under the bill through a grandfather clause until the inventory is sold off. Christopher Keating, Hartford Courant, 28 Nov. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'grandfather clause.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1899, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of grandfather clause was in 1899

Dictionary Entries Near grandfather clause

Cite this Entry

“Grandfather clause.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grandfather%20clause. Accessed 27 Feb. 2024.

Legal Definition

grandfather clause

noun
: a clause creating an exemption (as from a law or regulation) based on circumstances previously existing
specifically : a provision inserted in the constitutions of some southern states after the Civil War requiring high standards of literacy and substantial property qualifications of voters except for descendants of men voting before 1867

More from Merriam-Webster on grandfather clause

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