from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun The act or practice of bringing a groundless lawsuit or lawsuits.
  • noun An unlawful breach of duty on the part of a ship's master or crew resulting in injury to the ship's owner.
  • noun Sale or purchase of positions in church or state.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The purchase or sale of ecclesiastical preferments or of offices of state. See barrator, 1, 3.
  • noun In old Scots law, the taking of bribes by a judge.
  • noun The fraud or offense committed by a barrator. See barrator, 4.
  • noun 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.
  • noun Also barretry, especially in the last sense.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Law) The practice of exciting and encouraging lawsuits and quarrels.
  • noun (Mar. Law) 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.
  • noun (Scots Law) The crime of a judge who is influenced by bribery in pronouncing judgment.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

  • noun traffic in ecclesiastical offices or preferments
  • noun (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
  • noun the crime of a judge whose judgment is influenced by bribery
  • noun 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.


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  • "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

  • "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 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