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

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 At the same time, the witch hunters, the clerical and secular authorities presiding over inquisitions and tribunals tasked with identifying and eliminating witchcraft practitioners, were overwhelmingly male. Erin Cassese, Vox, "A political history of the term “witch hunt”," 31 Oct. 2018 Throughout the inquisition, Facebook’s stock ticked upwards. Nash Jenkins, Time, "Mark Zuckerberg Leaves Washington With Bumps and Bruises, but Nothing Worse," 11 Apr. 2018 Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg faced a congressional inquisition over revelations the data-mining firm Cambridge Analytica accessed the personal information of 87 million users to try and influence elections. Time, "Twitter Has a Big Problem in Southeast Asia: Bots Before the Ballot in Malaysia and Beyond," 4 May 2018 On Thursday, one of his deputies faced a decidedly sharper inquisition from a panel in Britain. Adam Satariano, New York Times, "Facebook Faces Tough Questions in Britain That It Avoided in the U.S.," 26 Apr. 2018 Once June arrives at the hospital, she’s given the inquisition by a woman who refuses to call June by her real last name, in favor of her married name. Claire Dodson, Teen Vogue, "The First Episodes of "The Handmaid's Tale” Season Two Just Dropped and Things Still Look Bleak," 25 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for inquisition

Last Updated

9 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for inquisition

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

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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

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Comments on inquisition

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


concealment of treason or felony

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