from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. An object forfeited by the state (and supposedly given to God) because it had caused the death of a person

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A personal chattel which had caused the death of a person, and for that reason was given to God, that is, forfeited to the crown, to be applied to pious uses, and distributed in alms by the high almoner. Thus, if a cart ran over a man and killed him, it was forfeited as a deodand.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Formerly, in Eng. law. from the earliest times, a personal chattel which had been the immediate occasion of the death of a rational creature, and for that reason given to God—that is, forfeited to the king to be applied to pious uses and distributed in alms by his high almoner.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Latin deodandum, from Deo dandum to be given to God.


  • There is some justification for the use of the Latin prefix in this manner - e.g. 'deodand', which occurs in 12th century English.

    The Watcher: The New Zealand Voice of the Left Hand Path #10

  • Fake wizard Lixal Laqavee, having tired of his life as a conjurer in a circus, decides to learn some real magic, with troublesome results that force him into a highly hazardous alliance with a deodand of dubious reliability and a ravenous hunger for human flesh.

    Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

  • Punishing or forfeiting the thing or animal that had done wrong was an old English institution, called deodand.

    A History of American Law

  • The bound volume was forfeited as a deodand, but not claimed.

    The Atlantic Monthly, Volume 01, No. 01, November, 1857 A Magazine of Literature, Art, and Politics

  • Bracton,/1/in case a man was slain, the coroner was to value the object causing the death, and that was to be forfeited sa deodand "pro rege."

    The Common Law

  • "Where a man killeth another with the sword of John at Stile, the sword shall be forfeit as deodand, and yet no default is in the owner."

    The Common Law

  • Henry Spigurnel, a judge in the time of Edward I., is reported, that "where a man is killed by a cart, or by the fall of a house, or in other like manner, and the thing in motion is the cause of the death, it shall be deodand."

    The Common Law

  • It has been a rule of criminal pleading in England down into the present century, that an indictment for homicide must set forth the value of the instrument causing the death, in order that the king or his grantee might claim forfeiture of the deodand, "as an accursed thing," in the language of Blackstone.

    The Common Law

  • The encounter fortunately took place upon a Friday, so that the combatants had both Saturday and Sunday, with the deodand of a slight fine for being absent from chapel, to recover appearances.

    Alec Forbes of Howglen

  • Newstead Abbey or Priory was founded by Henry II., by way of deodand or expiation for the murder of Thomas Becket.

    The Works of Lord Byron. Vol. 6


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  • "The judges of the assize listened to and gave their verdict on cases of theft, of coin-clipping, street brawls, a smothered baby, bigamy, land disputes, ale that was too weak, loaves that were short, disputed wills, deodands, vagabondage, begging, shipmasters' quarrels, fisticuffs among neighbors, arson, runaway heiresses, and naughty apprentices."

    Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, p 382 of the Berkley paperback edition

    February 28, 2012

  • From the first moment of our meeting, I became attached to you by so strong a tie, as time has not been able to dissolve. When I lost you at Madrid, I did not despair of finding you again; and yesterday, on your sudden appearance, I received you like a deodand.

    - Lesage, The Adventures of Gil Blas of Santillane, tr. Smollett, bk 7 ch. 10

    October 1, 2008

  • "His neighbour, he found, had for some time been telling him about the nice distinctions to be found in English law. ' is much the same with deodands, he continued. 'If a man leap on to a cart in motion, however slight that motion may be, and miss his footing so that he break his neck, then the cart and all it contains is a deodand, forfeit to the King. But in the case of a cart that is standing still, while the man climbs up by the wheel, and climbing falls to his death, the wheel alone is deodand.'"

    --Patrick O'Brian, The Far Side of the World, 60

    February 19, 2008