in·​qui·​si·​tion | \ ˌin-kwə-ˈzi-shən How to pronounce inquisition (audio) , ˌiŋ- \

Definition of inquisition

1a capitalized : a former Roman Catholic tribunal for the discovery and punishment of heresy
b : an investigation conducted with little regard for individual rights
c : a severe questioning
2 : a judicial or official inquiry or examination usually before a jury also : the finding of the jury
3 : the act of inquiring : examination

Other Words from inquisition

inquisitional \ ˌin-​kwə-​ˈzi-​sh(ə-​)nᵊl How to pronounce inquisition (audio) , ˌiŋ-​ \ adjective

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While an inquiry can be almost any search for truth, the related word inquisition suggests a long, thorough investigation that involves extensive and harsh questioning. Though the two words originally had about the same meaning, today inquisition tends to remind us of the Spanish Inquisition, an ongoing trial conducted by church-appointed inquisitors that began in the Middle Ages and sought out nonbelievers, Jews, and Muslims, thousands of whom were sentenced to torture and to burning at the stake.

Examples of inquisition in a Sentence

His political enemies were conducting an inquisition into the details of his personal life. there's no need to conduct an inquisition about so trivial a matter
Recent Examples on the Web This brand of evidence-free scaremongering was entirely in line with the McCarthy inquisition. Chris Lehmann, The New Republic, 23 Nov. 2021 Any offseason inquisition into what has gone wrong on this offense, what has been done wrong and what needs changed must start here. Zach Osterman, The Indianapolis Star, 7 Nov. 2021 The museum’s first two temporary exhibits will be about the Portuguese inquisition in Brazil, which only ended 200 years ago. Caleb A. Guedes-reed,, 4 Nov. 2021 Most candidates view the job interview as an inquisition. Chris Westfall, Forbes, 27 Sep. 2021 However, such a sincere inquisition would have required humility. Dana Brownlee, Forbes, 16 Sep. 2021 There have been plenty of horror films set in the Old West and the Old South, as well as eras of religious inquisition in the Old World. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 29 Aug. 2021 Unfortunately, Gizelle’s callousness isn’t limited to her enemies; even her best friend, Robyn Dixon, ends up on the wrong end of an inquisition. Shamira Ibrahim, Vulture, 15 Aug. 2021 So far, the show's successfully juggling a vast demons-and-embryos mythology with sincere spiritual inquisition. Kristen Baldwin,, 24 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'inquisition.' 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 inquisition

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for inquisition

Middle English inquisicioun, from Anglo-French inquisition, from Latin inquisition-, inquisitio, from inquirere

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The first known use of inquisition was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

3 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inquisition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for inquisition



English Language Learners Definition of inquisition

: an organization in the Roman Catholic Church in the past that was responsible for finding and punishing people who did not accept its beliefs and practices
: a harsh and unfair investigation or series of questions


in·​qui·​si·​tion | \ ˌin-kwə-ˈzi-shən, ˌiŋ- How to pronounce inquisition (audio) \

Legal Definition of inquisition

1 : the act of inquiring or examining
2 : a judicial or official inquiry or examination usually before a jury also : the finding that results from such an inquiry

More from Merriam-Webster on inquisition

Nglish: Translation of inquisition for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of inquisition for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about inquisition


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