Definition of gavelkind in English:



  • [mass noun] A system of inheritance in which a deceased person's land is divided equally among all male heirs.

    • ‘In particular, it appeared to the Crown that they were relying on the customs of tanistry and gavelkind.’
    • ‘The Irish gavelkind, it will be seen, is quite different from the gavelkind customary in the county of Kent.’
    • ‘Undeniably, however, subdivision of holdings took place on a large scale and continued to do so notwithstanding the formal abolition of gavelkind following the union with England.’
    • ‘Only in Kent and in Wales did the custom of gavelkind produce the partible inheritance which reduced many noble families to penury on the continent.’
    • ‘The redistribution by gavelkind on each occasion extended to the clan or sept - not beyond.’


Middle English: from obsolete gavel ‘payment, rent’+ kind.