One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Acquittal from a charge or accusation obtained by statements of innocence given by witnesses under oath.
- ‘Kichynman claimed he had already cleared himself of this charge through compurgation.’
- ‘The Anglo-Saxon preference for compurgation, as proof of guilt or innocence, persisted and only gradually gave way to trial by jury.’
- ‘The early methods of trial were compurgation or trial by ordeal or wager of law.’
- ‘Each party had to state his case under oath, and doubts as to the guilt or innocence of the accused person were resolved by either compurgation or ordeal.’
- ‘In the absence of positive evidence of guilt, and sometimes despite of it, the accused was bound to clear himself by compurgation or by the ordeal.’
Mid 17th century: from medieval Latin compurgatio(n-), from Latin compurgare, from com- (expressing intensive force) + purgare ‘purify’ (from purus ‘pure’).
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