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.’
    • ‘Edward IV and Henry VII restored their authority by attainders and forfeitures coupled to the rigorous exploitation of the king's feudal rights.’
    • ‘If I remember rightly, this Act abolished attainder in New South Wales.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    confiscation, sequestration, loss, losing, denial
    View synonyms


  • act (or bill) of attainder

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

      • ‘Parliament officially stripped him, as well as many loyal to Henry VI, of his properties with acts of attainder.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The legislature was prohibited from passing acts of attainder, and from instituting any courts, except those which proceeded according to the common law.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Parliament made acts of attainder one day, and reversed them almost on the next.’
      • ‘No doubt that these acts of attainder have been abused in England as instruments of vengeance by a successful over a defeated party.’
      • ‘The constitution of Georgia does not expressly interdict the passing of an act of attainder and confiscation, by the authority of the legislature.’


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).