gra·​va·​men | \ grə-ˈvā-mən How to pronounce gravamen (audio) \
plural gravamens or gravamina\ grə-​ˈva-​mə-​nə How to pronounce gravamen (audio) \

Definition of gravamen

: the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint

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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."

Examples of gravamen in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Righteous anger over the double-standard would, however, have been a good reason for the House to avoid making insurrection the gravamen of its impeachment article. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "The Trump Impeachment Is Deeply Flawed, but He Deserves Conviction," 17 Jan. 2021

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

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

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Time Traveler for gravamen

Time Traveler

The first known use of gravamen was in 1602

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Last Updated

31 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gravamen.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for gravamen


gra·​va·​men | \ grə-ˈvā-mən How to pronounce gravamen (audio) \

Legal Definition of gravamen

: gist

History and Etymology for gravamen

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

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