from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The offense of persistently instigating lawsuits, typically groundless ones.
  • n. An unlawful breach of duty on the part of a ship's master or crew resulting in injury to the ship's owner.
  • n. Sale or purchase of positions in church or state.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. the act of persistently instigating lawsuits, often groundless ones
  • n. the sale and/or purchase of political positions of power
  • n. unlawful or fraudulent acts by the crew of a vessel, harming the vessel's owner.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The practice of exciting and encouraging lawsuits and quarrels.
  • n. A fraudulent breach of duty or willful act of known illegality on the part of a master of a ship, in his character of master, or of the mariners, to the injury of the owner of the ship or cargo, and without his consent. It includes every breach of trust committed with dishonest purpose, as by running away with the ship, sinking or deserting her, etc., or by embezzling the cargo.
  • n. The crime of a judge who is influenced by bribery in pronouncing judgment.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The purchase or sale of ecclesiastical preferments or of offices of state. See barrator, 1, 3.
  • n. In old Scots law, the taking of bribes by a judge.
  • n. The fraud or offense committed by a barrator. See barrator, 4.
  • n. A vexatious and persistent inciting of others to lawsuits and litigation; a stirring up and maintaining of controversies and litigation. This is a criminal offense at common law.
  • n. Also barretry, especially in the last sense.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. traffic in ecclesiastical offices or preferments
  • n. (maritime law) a fraudulent breach of duty by the master of a ship that injures the owner of the ship or its cargo; includes every breach of trust such as stealing or sinking or deserting the ship or embezzling the cargo
  • n. the crime of a judge whose judgment is influenced by bribery
  • n. the offense of vexatiously persisting in inciting lawsuits and quarrels


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Middle English barratrie, the sale of church offices, from Old French baraterie, deception, malversation, from barater, to cheat; see barrator.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Early 15th century, in sense “sale of offices”, from Old French baraterie ("deceit, trickery"), from barat ("fraud, deceit, trickery"), of Unknown origin, perhaps Celtic. In marine sense of “unlawful acts causing loss to owner”, 1620s.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • The time-honored laws of admiralty

    Define what is honest and fair at sea.

    The fo'csle's a moral farrago

    But keep order in the cargo

    Or owners may charge you with barratry.

    August 23, 2014

  • "Are you quite sure, Mrs. Wellaby, that you haven't committed even the least little tiny tort in the last few days? Because I am ready, now as ever, to defend you against any accusation whatsoever, no matter whether it be barratry or illicit diamond-buying, forgery or coining, breach of promise to marry, or armed resistance to capture."

    The Wind on the Moon by Eric Linklater, p 199 of the New York Review of Books hardcover

    July 17, 2013

  • "The idea was so feasible, in fact, that had the court known of a friendship between Briggs and the Dei Gratia's captain the entire episode might have been ruled an insurance scheme, or barratry—fraud against the owners—at the very least. Morehouse and possibly even Winchester would have gone to jail.... He knew what it looked like. It smacks of insurance fraud even today but, upon examination, that too is unlikely."

    —Brian Hicks, Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew (NY: Ballantine Books, 2004), 151

    September 18, 2009