Definition of inquisition in US English:



  • 1A period of prolonged and intensive questioning or investigation.

    ‘she relented in her determined inquisition and offered help’
    • ‘A lone holidaymaker floored by illness asks room service for two bottles of water, only to be subjected to a tragi-comic inquisition as to whether she is secretly harbouring a lover in her single - occupancy room.’
    • ‘And as their coach and captain faced the first questions of a lengthy inquisition, the atmosphere was distinctly funereal.’
    • ‘In his book he traces the shameful collaboration between government personnel officers and the D.C. vice squads that fueled inquisitions, investigations and systematic removals of gay people from federal agencies.’
    • ‘And they couldn't understand either why anyone would be trying to tax their brains with such a meaningless inquisition.’
    • ‘Already there are signs that he is wearying of questions about next year's duel with the Americans but the bad news for the Largs-born player is that the inquisition will intensify with each month.’
    • ‘She classified the inquisitions of the two nurses as outrageous.’
    • ‘He attempted to head off my questions with inquisitions about the trip.’
    • ‘We chatted about this and that, although on reflection I think it might have been more of an inquisition on my part.’
    • ‘But it's probably not wise to give too hard an inquisition.’
    • ‘Instead of inquisitions, which can often fail to reveal the whole truth about incidents, bullying children should be ‘taught’ better ways of interacting, Robinson says.’
    • ‘Now, there would probably be an inquisition if I got in that late.’
    • ‘The process is more an inquisition than an interview - albeit a good-humoured one.’
    • ‘She mixes her tough inquisitions with equally rigorous networking, her Glasgow West End kitchen being one of the city's busiest salons.’
    • ‘When something is badly organised, awkwardly structured and feebly managed, the inquiries and inquisitions commence.’
    • ‘During the inquisition Jack was asked if he had had other affairs.’
    • ‘The freedom of the press means nothing if diligent journalists can't make occasional mistakes without prompting inquisitions, especially if they're willing to issue retractions as promptly as the networks did.’
    • ‘I knew from the way she rolled her eyes that he was performing his ritual inquisition.’
    • ‘In this case, this particular woman was innocent in her inquisitions, but there are plenty out there who think, ‘How hard is it to make fabulous food and put it on a plate?’’
    • ‘His mood was slightly more restrained when he eventually emerged from the inquisition.’
    • ‘To do: bring it up with him as a gentle inquiry, not an inquisition; tell him hearing those words would make you feel good.’
    interrogation, questioning, quizzing, cross-examination, cross-questioning, catechism
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    1. 1.1historical A judicial or official inquiry.
      • ‘It is a trial, not an inquisition: a trial in which the protagonists are the Crown on the one hand and the accused on the other.’
      • ‘Until 1854 the value of the instrument of a man's death had to be recorded in the coroner's inquisition and, if the matter went to trial, in the murder indictment.’
      • ‘In 1246 an inquisition jury attributed the foundation to the Conqueror and identified the recipients of hospitality as the poor, sick and infirm who had no homes but slept in the streets at night.’
      • ‘A brief look at the escheator's inquisitions in the wake of the revolt add substance to this assessment.’
  • 2An ecclesiastical tribunal established by Pope Gregory IX c.1232 for the suppression of heresy. It was active chiefly in northern Italy and southern France, becoming notorious for the use of torture. In 1542 the papal Inquisition was re-established to combat Protestantism, eventually becoming an organ of papal government.


Late Middle English (denoting a searching examination): via Old French from Latin inquisitio(n-) ‘examination’, from the verb inquirere (see enquire).