Definitions

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

  • n. A method of trial in which an accused person could summon a specified number of people, usually 12, to swear to their belief in his or her innocence.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A form of trial in which the defendant took an oath of his innocence and summoned twelve people to swear that they believed him

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act or practice of justifying or confirming a man's veracity by the oath of others; -- called also wager of law. See purgation; also Wager of law, under wager.
  • n. Exculpation by testimony to one's veracity or innocence.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In early English law, a mode of trial in which the accused was permitted to call twelve persons of his acquaintance to testify to their belief in his innocence. See compurgator. Compurgation in the ecclesiastical courts was not abolished till the reign of Elizabeth.

Etymologies

Late Latin compūrgātiō, compūrgātiōn-, complete purification, from Latin compūrgātus, past participle of compūrgāre, to purify completely : com-, intensive pref.; see com- + pūrgāre, to purify; see peuə- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

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