Definition of barratry in English:



mass noun
  • 1archaic Fraud or gross negligence of a ship's master or crew at the expense of its owners or users.

    • ‘Barratry can be identified in two forms within an admiralty context and seamen should be aware.’
    • ‘The word that should pop into your head right now isn't mutiny, it's barratry.’
    • ‘Thereafter, owners changed their case to assert, and assert only, that Komiseris had sunk the vessel deliberately without their privity and that the loss had thus occurred by barratry.’
    carelessness, lack of care, lack of proper care and attention, dereliction of duty, non-performance of duty, non-fulfilment of duty, remissness, neglectfulness, neglect, laxity, laxness, irresponsibility, inattention, inattentiveness, heedlessness, thoughtlessness, unmindfulness, forgetfulness
    View synonyms
  • 2Law
    Vexatious litigation or incitement to it (abolished as an offence in Britain in 1967).

    • ‘The rules have been around since the mediaeval laws about champerty and barratry.’
    • ‘He openly taints his request with a subtle legal threat, not learning in the past year that barratry is no way to gain understanding from others, not to mention the fact he hasn't sued anyone he has threatened.’
    • ‘That is why I referred to barratry and the old common law rules about maintenance and champerty.’
    • ‘They accuse Mr. Davis of the torts of barratry and malicious prosecution.’
  • 3historical Trade in the sale of Church or state appointments.

    • ‘Simony is the religious equivalent to barratry, the very crime Dante was accused of.’
    • ‘Boiled in the pitch are shades guilty of barratry--the selling of offices.’


Late Middle English (in barratry (sense 3)): from Old French baraterie, from barater ‘deceive’, based on Greek prattein ‘do, perform, manage’ (sometimes dishonestly); perhaps influenced by Old Norse barátta ‘contest’.