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n. Law
A legal arrangement in which a property owner such as an ecclesiastical institution is barred from transferring or selling its property.

[Middle English mortemayne, from Old French mortemain : morte, feminine of mort, dead; see mortgage + main, hand (from Latin manus; see man- in Indo-European roots).]


(Law) law the state or condition of lands, buildings, etc, held inalienably, as by an ecclesiastical or other corporation
[C15: from Old French mortemain, from Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand, inalienable ownership]



1. the condition of lands or tenements held without right of alienation, as by an ecclesiastical corporation.
2. the perpetual holding of land, esp. by a corporation or charitable trust.
[1250–1300; Middle English < Anglo-French, translation of Medieval Latin mortua manus dead hand]


transfer or ownership of real property in perpetuity, as transfer to or ownership by a corporate body like a school, college, or church.
See also: Property and Ownership
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.mortmain - real property held inalienably (as by an ecclesiastical corporation)
corp, corporation - a business firm whose articles of incorporation have been approved in some state
immovable, real estate, real property, realty - property consisting of houses and land
2.mortmain - the oppressive influence of past events or decisions
influence - a power to affect persons or events especially power based on prestige etc; "used her parents' influence to get the job"
References in classic literature ?
Already, however, the legal tongues are wagging, and one young law student is loudly asserting that the rights of the owner are already completely sacrificed, his property being held in contravention of the statues of mortmain, since the tiller, as emblemship, if not proof, of delegated possession, is held in a dead hand.
Then land owners began to grant over to ('enfeoff') friends or family to hold their lands subject to instructions for postmortem distribution to close ones (including younger sons, daughters, widows, and perhaps mistresses and bastards), or perhaps to church institutions in evasion of mortmain prohibitions.
25) The ecclesiastics also sought to avoid the operation of the statutes of Mortmain, including the Statute De Viris Religiosis 1279 (26) which prohibited the conveyance of land to religious corporations in perpetuity without the authority of the Crown.
Palabras clave: Trust, Use, Charitable Trust, Common Law, Equity, Derecho canonico, Fideicomiso, Mortmain, Fundacion, lus Commune.
It may be thought that, at least for corporations, mortmain statutes were an exception.
The Hamas Charter asserts that "all Palestine is waqf (endowed or mortmain property belonging to the Muslim umma)"--a claim that means that churches, and their considerable properties, currently owned by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Churches in Palestine, would come under Muslim control, as they have throughout Syria and Iraq wherever ISIS has conquered.
In both England and Canada, the courts developed and refined the common law concept of a charitable purpose in judgments concerning the validity of charitable trusts, the application of mortmain legislation and, eventually, the application of tax legislation.
His Oxford College was at least partly founded on certificates of mortmain that he arranged while serving as royal Chancellor in the early 1450s.
leftover gasps of mortmain in the New World apparently discouraged
Thus, for instance, Mortmain (meaning in French "Dead Hand") impersonated Melville's desire for self-annihilation, while Nehemiah was a "gentle, saintly version of Captain Ahab who had learned to accept the universe," and Rolfe "the eager believer," who "may have been an ironic partial portrait of Melville himself.
In New York for many years, a mortmain statute barred testators from bequeathing more than half their estates to charity if a parent or child survived them and contested the will, unless the parent or child would derive no benefit from doing so under the terms of the will or by intestacy.
His brown-wash study of the former dramatically delineates the jagged fingers of rock and the fractured, tessellated cliffs on which Mortmain castle perches like an afterthought.