Tuesday, March 6, 2012


GRAVAMEN (grǝˈveımɛn), n. [From an unlikely combination of grave (Du. graaf) “count” (whose many cognates happen to include M.H.G. pfalsgraf, which, coincidentally (coincidentally, because of gravamen’s common occurrence within the limited realm of legalese) is a spectacular and notorious case, Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co., with an elegant opinion by Justice Cardozo, whose analysis of legal cause v. cause-in-fact inspired the movie TheButterfly Effect, starring Ashton Kutcher and, predictably, generally panned by critics) + amare (PIE am-) for “to love” or “loving,” and derived from the Latin and Celtic for “mother” (esp. in the context of nursery rhymes) + -en, truncated from L. –antia and –entia, as a suffix affixed to verbs such as to generate abstract nouns.]

1. abs. The condition of being in love with a German or Dutch accent.

1837  Greenleaf:  “For the gravamen is, not that their property has been directly invaded; but that an act has been done in another place.”

2. A grievance.

1986  W. Rehnquist:  “The gravamen of any sexual harassment claim is that the alleged sexual advances were ‘unwelcome.’”

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