Definition of gravamen in English:



  • 1The essence or most serious part of a complaint or accusation.

    ‘a constitutional violation may comprise the gravamen of a plaintiff's complaint’
    • ‘In cases involving accidents, the gravamen of the offence is whether the prosecution established the accused was driving carelessly, and not the consequences of the driving.’
    • ‘The gravamen in respect of each charge is the allegation of indecency, without which the committee are unlikely, in my view, to find Serious Professional Misconduct.’
    • ‘The gravamen of the offence was that he flew too low.’
    • ‘Yes, the gravamen of harm in the plaintiff's point of view is the damage to economic interests.’
    • ‘It is the practice of the defendant in relation to its contractual and statutory requirements that forms the gravamen of the plaintiffs' complaint.’
    1. 1.1 A grievance.
      • ‘The gravamen of his 30 years of research is that public schools are notoriously inefficient at converting additional dollars into improved student learning.’
      • ‘What's your gravamen, Rick?’
      • ‘Now we have come perhaps to the gravamen of the problem.’


Early 17th century (as an ecclesiastical term denoting formal presentation of a grievance): from late Latin, literally ‘physical inconvenience’, from Latin gravare ‘to load’, from gravis ‘heavy’.