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

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Other Words from inquisition

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

Did You Know?

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 Season 2 of the confessional sexcom turned into a heart-exploding love story, balancing unrepressed passion with deeply spiritual inquisition. Kristen Baldwin,, "2020 Golden Globe winner predictions: EW picks who should and who will win," 2 Jan. 2020 And when bored customs officers asked you to halt your vehicle, the inquisition to which you were subjected—at least if your Saab or pickup truck bore Vermont plates—was perfunctory. Joshua Jelly-schapiro, The New Yorker, "What Are Borders For?," 27 Nov. 2019 Only after this lengthy inquisition will other committee members get to ask questions. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "What Can We Expect from Televised Impeachment Hearings?," 30 Oct. 2019 These counselors are ranked quarterly on their performance, and former employees say that losing customers — and with them, those fees — can set off an inquisition. Sabrina Willmer, Los Angeles Times, "Inside Ken Fisher’s investment kingdom, where the pace and the talk can be rough," 22 Oct. 2019 When the inquisition began in Spain in 1478, any Jew that did not want to be tortured or murdered had only to convert to Catholicism. Haruka Sakaguchi, National Geographic, "Meet the survivors of a ‘paper genocide’," 14 Oct. 2019 The inquisition takes a turn when Chris Harrison brings up the issue of faith. Cory Stieg,, "The Bachelorette Season 15, Episode 11 Recap: The Luke Show Is Finally Over," 25 July 2019 No, capitalist Japan, where former Nissan Motors CEO Carlos Ghosn is enduring a bizarre inquisition. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Ghosn Inquisition," 26 Nov. 2018 Through such presumptions of guilt, our new public inquisition looks to right genuine past wrongs. James Panero, WSJ, "Where’s the Mercy in ‘Social Justice’?," 23 Jan. 2019

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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Time Traveler for inquisition

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for inquisition

Last Updated

11 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Inquisition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for inquisition


How to pronounce inquisition (audio)

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

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