insanity plea

Definition of insanity plea

  1. :  a plea in court of insanity as a reason or excuse for committing a crime He murdered his wife and got off on an insanity plea.

On the Meaning of insanity

An oft-quoted bon mot (frequently attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or a number of other people who probably never said it) is that insanity may be defined as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” While the job of lexicographers might be easier if they were allowed to use witty sayings instead of precise definitions, such belletristic labors are not within their purview. The straight facts about insanity are these: it has been in use in English since the late 16th century, for the first two hundred years or so carrying only the literal meaning “the condition of being mentally deranged.” In the 19th century it began to take on a looser sense, “extreme folly or unreasonableness.” In modern usage, insanity may be found in both senses: you may tell your brother that trying to skateboard while holding onto a car is "insanity" (in which case you mean that it is extremely foolish) or encounter the stricter original meaning in such contexts as insanity plea.

Word by Word Definitions

  1. :  a severely disordered state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder

    :  unsoundness of mind or lack of the ability to understand that prevents one from having the mental capacity required by law to enter into a particular relationship, status, or transaction or that releases one from criminal or civil responsibility

    :  extreme folly or unreasonableness

  1. :  a legal suit or action

    :  an allegation made by a party in support of a cause: such as

    :  an allegation of fact — compare demurrer

Seen and Heard

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


a favoring of the simplest explanation

Get Word of the Day daily email!