gra·va·men | \grə-ˈvā-mən \
plural gravamens or gravamina\grə-ˈva-mə-nə \

Definition of gravamen 

: the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint

Did You Know?

Gravamen is not a word you hear every day, but it does show up occasionally in modern-day publications. It comes from the Latin verb gravare, meaning "to burden," and ultimately from the Latin adjective gravis, meaning "heavy." Fittingly, "gravamen" refers to the part of a grievance or complaint that gives it weight or substance. In legal contexts, "gravamen" is used, synonymously with "gist," to refer to the grounds on which a legal action is sustainable. "Gravis" has given English several other weighty words, including "gravity," "grieve," and the adjective grave, meaning "important" or "serious."

First Known Use of gravamen

1602, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gravamen

Late Latin, burden, from Latin gravare to burden, from gravis

Medieval Latin, from Late Latin, burden, from Latin gravare to burden, from gravis heavy, grave

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gravamen

Listen to Our Podcast about gravamen

Statistics for gravamen

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gravamen

The first known use of gravamen was in 1602

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gravamen


gra·va·men | \grə-ˈvā-mən \

Legal Definition of gravamen 

: gist

More from Merriam-Webster on gravamen

See words that rhyme with gravamen

Spanish Central: Translation of gravamen

Comments on gravamen

What made you want to look up gravamen? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a generally accepted meaning of a word

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!