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 inquisition (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 most rigorous inquisition too is requisite to watch every inequality on its first appearance; and the most severe jurisdiction, to punish and redress it. WSJ, "Equality Goes With Freedom, Equity Doesn’t," 11 Mar. 2021 When the inquisition required him to drop his study of what the Roman Catholic Church insisted was not a heliocentric solar system, Galileo Galilei turned his energy to the less controversial question of how to stick a telescope onto a helmet. Alex Davies, Wired, "The Autonomous-Car Chaos of the 2004 Darpa Grand Challenge," 6 Jan. 2021 Lyman also has a list of words for Pictionary (ghost, lung, inquisition) on her website. Star Tribune, "These new and old family games are perfect for Zoom," 18 Dec. 2020 But after narrowly defeating Republican Rep. Mimi Walters, Porter quickly built a national following; her blistering inquisition of corporate executives and Trump administration officials made for must-watch viewing on the left. Mark Z. Barabak Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "News Analysis: Side-by-side races in Orange County frame Democrats’ debate," 16 Dec. 2020 A few years ago, progressives may have thralled to Elizabeth Warren’s inquisition of Yellen for supposedly having done too little to lay the groundwork for the breakup of big banks. Editorial New York Daily News, Star Tribune, "Janet Yellen is the right choice for the Fed," 2 Dec. 2020 The calls on states were generally cautious, though at Fox News a very early call of Arizona for Joe Biden kicked off an on-camera inquisition of the network's chief pollster, Arnon Mishkin, according to The New York Times. Bill Carter For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "Election Night was an edge-of-the-seat show, but viewers are ready for it to be over," 5 Nov. 2020 By the end of the inquisition, 36 people were sentenced to die and were burnt at the stake. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "Nature's Toxic Gifts: The Deadly Story of Poison," 4 Oct. 2020 My own alternate universe Emmys would honor the profound self-inquisition of The Good Fight, and ignore any TV series about Nicer Boba Fett guarding Cuter Yoda. Darren Franich,, "A pretty good Emmys made a poor case for TV’s importance, but at least we could watch Watchmen: Review," 21 Sep. 2020

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

26 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Inquisition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 Apr. 2021.

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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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