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The Collaborative International Dictionary

Mortification \Mor`ti*fi*ca"tion\, n. [F., fr. L. mortificatio a killing. See Mortify.]

  1. The act of mortifying, or the condition of being mortified; especially:

    1. (Med.) The death of one part of an animal body, while the rest continues to live; loss of vitality in some part of a living animal; gangrene.

    2. (Alchem. & Old Chem.) Destruction of active qualities; neutralization. [Obs.]

    3. Subjection of the passions and appetites, by penance, abstinence, or painful severities inflicted on the body.

      The mortification of our lusts has something in it that is troublesome, yet nothing that is unreasonable.

  2. Deep humiliation or shame, from a loss of pride; painful embarassment, usually arising from exposure of a mistake; chagrin; vexation.

  3. That which mortifies; the cause of humiliation, chagrin, or vexation.

    It is one of the vexatious mortifications of a studious man to have his thoughts discovered by a tedious visit.

  4. (Scots Law) A gift to some charitable or religious institution; -- nearly synonymous with mortmain.

    Syn: Chagrin; vexation; shame. See Chagrin.

Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"inalienable ownership," mid-15c., from Anglo-French morte mayn, Old French mortemain, literally "dead hand," from Medieval Latin mortua manus; see mortal (adj.) + manual (adj.). Probably a metaphorical expression.


n. 1 (context legal English) The perpetual, inalienable possession of lands by a corporation or non-personal entity such as a church. 2 (context literary English) A strong and inalienable possession.

  1. n. real property held inalienably (as by an ecclesiastical corporation) [syn: dead hand]

  2. the oppressive influence of past events of decisions [syn: dead hand, dead hand of the past]


Mortmain is the perpetual, inalienable ownership of real estate by a corporation or legal institution; the term is usually used in the context of its prohibition. Historically, the land owner usually would be the religious office of a church; today, insofar as mortmain prohibitions against perpetual ownership still exist, it refers most often to modern companies and charitable trusts. The term "mortmain" is derived from Mediaeval Latin mortua manus, literally "dead hand", through Old French morte main.

Usage examples of "mortmain".

I have observed there is a darkness in Rafe Mortmain, and he seems to bring that darkness out in others.

But Lance had discovered early on in his friendship with Rafe Mortmain that the man enjoyed nothing so much as unsettling people.

Abandoned in Paris by Evelyn Mortmain during the terrors of the French Revolution, Rafe had somehow survived, only to discover his mother long dead.

Captain Mortmain is a difficult man to comprehend, but Lance seems to hold a very high opinion of him.

His brother spending every waking moment with Rosalind had kept him far away from the Mortmain bastard and out of any more possible danger.

And you say that Captain Mortmain is the same one who attacked her ladyship.

But one way or another, the threat of Rafe Mortmain was finally going to be settled, Val thought grimly.

The home of the once proud and treacherous Mortmain family, both their evil and their hatred of the St.

Leger holdings, Lance had never dared set foot on Mortmain land during his boyhood.

The local folk avoided Lost Land like the plague, claiming the ruins were haunted by the spirits of those Mortmain devils who, one and all, had come to a bad end.

Rafe had never come near this place before, claiming no interest in any part of his Mortmain heritage.

Rafe Mortmain was far too accustomed to dealing with the ghosts of his past.

Rafe Mortmain, despising himself even more for still being vulnerable to these sensations of shock and betrayal.

Leger against Mortmain, condemned by some ancient feud to duel to the death, throughout all time.

The Mortmain was tiring, no longer fighting with his usual cold precision.