Definition of attainder in English:



  • The forfeiture of land and civil rights suffered as a consequence of a sentence of death for treason or felony.

    ‘the attainder of the fourth Duke of Norfolk’
    mass noun ‘Robert's loyalty to Margaret of Anjou led to attainder and forfeiture’
    • ‘They limited punishment to the person charged, and abjured the attainder of the traitor's relatives or heirs.’
    • ‘If I remember rightly, this Act abolished attainder in New South Wales.’
    • ‘He had a son, the Earl of Warwick, who didn't inherit the dukedom because of the attainder, and was himself later found guilty of treason and executed under Henry VII.’
    • ‘Such attacks normally took one of two forms, either that of prosecutions and fines at law for misfeasance, or the more drastic resort of attainder and forfeiture.’
    • ‘Edward IV and Henry VII restored their authority by attainders and forfeitures coupled to the rigorous exploitation of the king's feudal rights.’
    confiscation, sequestration, loss, losing, denial
    View synonyms


  • act (or bill) of attainder

    • historical An item of legislation inflicting attainder without judicial process.

      • ‘The constitution of Georgia does not expressly interdict the passing of an act of attainder and confiscation, by the authority of the legislature.’
      • ‘The legislation covered three main areas, the ratification of Richard as king, the passing of acts of attainder against the October rebels and the passing of a number of acts designed to reform part of the legal system.’
      • ‘The legislature was prohibited from passing acts of attainder, and from instituting any courts, except those which proceeded according to the common law.’
      • ‘As a result she and five of her closest associates were imprisoned in the Tower of London while the act of attainder was passed against them, and were executed in April 1534.’
      • ‘Parliament officially stripped him, as well as many loyal to Henry VI, of his properties with acts of attainder.’
      • ‘No doubt that these acts of attainder have been abused in England as instruments of vengeance by a successful over a defeated party.’
      • ‘Parliament made acts of attainder one day, and reversed them almost on the next.’


Late Middle English: from Anglo-Norman French, variant (used as a noun) of Old French ateindre in the sense ‘convict, bring to justice’ (see attain).