Definition of barratry in US English:



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

    • ‘The word that should pop into your head right now isn't mutiny, it's barratry.’
    • ‘Barratry can be identified in two forms within an admiralty context and seamen should be aware.’
    • ‘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
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  • 2Law
    Vexatious litigation or incitement to it.

    • ‘That is why I referred to barratry and the old common law rules about maintenance and champerty.’
    • ‘The rules have been around since the mediaeval laws about champerty and barratry.’
    • ‘They accuse Mr. Davis of the torts of barratry and malicious prosecution.’
    • ‘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.’
  • 3historical Trade in the sale of Church or state appointments.

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


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’.