kangaroo court


: a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted
: a court characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures

Did you know?

A kangaroo court has never been a court by or for kangaroos, but beyond that, little is known for sure about the term's origins. Various theories abound: it has been suggested that kangaroo courts got their name because they were initially marked by rapid and unpredictable movement from one place to another, or that they were in some way associated with "jumping" (i.e., illegally occupying) mining claims. These hypotheses are all unsubstantiated, however. What is known is that the first kangaroo courts originated in the United States at approximately the time of the 1849 California Gold Rush, and the word saw its earliest use in the southwestern U.S. It first turned up in print in 1853 in a book about Texas.

Examples of kangaroo court in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web After weeks of innuendos and show hearings, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee have finally released the actual impeachment resolution against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, ahead of a hearing today in this kangaroo court. New York Daily News Editorial Board, New York Daily News, 30 Jan. 2024 The report was simply a kangaroo court that already knew its conclusions before the first witness was called. IEEE Spectrum, 31 Mar. 2024 Which seems an odd determination from a court of inquiry about the shipboard officers’ council, which was fairly clearly a kangaroo court. Howard Schneider, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 Hunter was credited with starting the Orioles’ kangaroo court. Paul McCardell, Baltimore Sun, 17 Jan. 2024 Bunker said the ordeal felt like a kangaroo court and that the committee had made up their minds before the hearing even began. Andrea Mew, National Review, 20 Dec. 2023 Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson called a parliamentary committee investigating him a kangaroo court. Max Colchester, WSJ, 9 June 2023 The mayor set up a kangaroo court in the station. David A. Taylor, Washington Post, 31 Mar. 2021 Frank’s arrest and kangaroo court trial occupy much of the musical’s two and a half hours; note is taken in passing of a campaign by a small army of outsiders — Thomas Edison and Henry Ford among them — to win Frank’s release. Peter Marks, Washington Post, 17 Mar. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'kangaroo court.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1841, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of kangaroo court was in 1841


Dictionary Entries Near kangaroo court

Cite this Entry

“Kangaroo court.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kangaroo%20court. Accessed 17 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

kangaroo court

: a court that uses unfair methods or is not a proper court of law

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