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

  • n. Law The act or process of distraining; distress.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The legal right of a landlord to seize the property of a tenant in the event of nonpayment of rent

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act or proceeding of seizing personal property by distress.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In law, the act of distraining; a distress.

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

  • n. the seizure and holding of property as security for payment of a debt or satisfaction of a claim


From distrain (on the model of such pairs as constrain, constraint).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)


  • To weigh the alternatives in this balance alone is the work of a moment: and there are all the more moments left for the life of princely expenditure, of inexhaustible revenue, without tax or toil, overdraft, usury or distraint, which is lived in the secret kingdom behind the eyelids.

    Try Anything Twice

  • Advocates of this stance often quote a 1960 Supreme Court opinion, which states that "our system of taxation is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint."

    Four Frivolous Tax Arguments That Won't Work

  • Hedges, fences, all are down, beasts exposed to wind and weather, fields and meadows lying fallow, every month a new distraint —

    Peer Gynt

  • Now that I think about it, direct property distraint was a recognized means of compelling welchers to fulfill their obligations in the quasi-anarchic Brehon laws of Celtic Ireland, even if it was a case of tenants or debtors going after landlords or creditors.

    Shameless Self-promotion Sunday #30

  • So modest was Mr Merdle withal, in the midst of these splendid achievements, that he looked far more like a man in possession of his house under a distraint, than a commercial Colossus bestriding his own hearthrug, while the little ships were sailing into dinner.

    Little Dorrit

  • United States that "our system of taxation is based upon voluntary assessment and payment, not upon distraint."

    More on Murphy

  • When Charles, distracted by the news of the distraint, returned home, Emma had just gone out.

    Madame Bovary

  • And there was even at the bottom, “She will be constrained thereto by every form of law, and notably by a writ of distraint on her furniture and effects.”

    Madame Bovary

  • She was stoical the next day when Maitre Hareng, the bailiff, with two assistants, presented himself at her house to draw up the inventory for the distraint.

    Madame Bovary

  • And thereupon, telling him the story of the distraint, she explained her distress to him; for Charles knew nothing of it; her mother-in-law detested her; old Rouault could do nothing; but he,

    Madame Bovary


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  • JM calls upon all and sundry to act with distraint and he'll go halves.

    September 22, 2010