Definition of compurgation in English:


Pronunciation /ˌkämpərˈɡāSHən/ /ˌkɑmpərˈɡeɪʃən/


historical Law
  • 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’


Mid 17th century from medieval Latin compurgatio(n-), from Latin compurgare, from com- (expressing intensive force) + purgare ‘purify’ (from purus ‘pure’).