Definition of gravamen in US English:


nounPlural gravamina

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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Yes, the gravamen of harm in the plaintiff's point of view is the damage to economic interests.’
    • ‘The gravamen of the offence was that he flew too low.’
    • ‘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.
      • ‘What's your gravamen, Rick?’
      • ‘Now we have come perhaps to the gravamen of the problem.’
      • ‘The gravamen of his 30 years of research is that public schools are notoriously inefficient at converting additional dollars into improved student learning.’


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’.