Law Perpetual ownership of real estate by institutions such as churches that cannot transfer or sell it. (noun)
The often oppressive influence of the past on the present. (noun)
American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Use "mortmain" in a sentence
"On the last occasion the king ennobled him, As prime minister he was most zealous in establishing the supremacy of the State over the Church, and in abolishing the privileges of the nobility together with feudalism, He restricted the jurisdiction of the bishops, impeded the last increment of the so-called mortmain, and reduced the taxes belonging to the chancery of the Roman Curia."
"It is to this inalienability of all the possessions of the Church, which like the "hand of a dead man" never loosens its grip of what it once has clutched, that the prejudice already referred to against property held in "mortmain" grew up in the thirteenth century."
"Whatever advantages are obtained by a state proceeding on these maxims, are locked fast as in a sort of family settlement; grasped as in a kind of mortmain for ever."