Word of the Day : April 14, 2011


noun KAHM-per-gay-ter


: one who under oath vouches for the character or conduct of an accused person

Did You Know?

"Compurgator" is a descendant of the Latin verb "compurgare," meaning "to purify wholly." The root of that word, "purgare," also gave English "purge" ("to clear of guilt," "to cause evacuation from," or "to get rid of") and "expurgate" ("to cleanse of something morally harmful, offensive, or erroneous"). "Compurgator" has occasionally been used in a more general sense of "one who supports or defends another," but its primary application is to the specific legal situation in which someone appears in court as a character witness for the defendant. "Compurgator" has been used in English with this specific legal meaning since the 16th century.


As a compurgator, you do not have to believe in the innocence of the defendant, but you do have to feel confident speaking positively about that person's character.

"To clear himself, the defendant required corroboration from a prescribed number of compurgators or 'oath-helpers,' which varied according to the nature and severity of the accusation. Neither the defendant nor his compurgators were required to present any evidence to the court." -- From Bruce L. Benson and Paul R. Zimmerman's 2010 book Handbook on the Economics of Crime

Test Your Vocabulary

What is the meaning of the legal term "voir dire"? The answer is ...


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!