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

  • noun An English system of land tenure dating from Anglo-Saxon times and continuing in Kent until 1926, in which land was divided equally among all qualified heirs.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Originally, in old English law, the tenure of land let out for rent, including in that term money, labor, and provisions, but not military service; also, the land so held.
  • noun Hence In general use, land in Great Britain or Ireland, or an estate therein, which by custom having the force of law is inheritable by all the sons together, and therefore subject to partition, instead of going exclusively to the eldest.

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

  • noun (O. Eng. Law) A tenure by which land descended from the father to all his sons in equal portions, and the land of a brother, dying without issue, descended equally to his brothers. It still prevails in the county of Kent.

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

  • noun historical a system of inheritance associated with the county of Kent in England whereby, at the death of a tenant, intestate estate is divided equally among all his sons; also, a similar system employed in Ireland


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

[Middle English gavelkinde : Old English gafol, gavel; see gavel + Old English gecynd, kind; see kind.]


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  • (noun) - (1) In Law, a Kentish custom whereby the lands of a father are, at his death, equally divided among his sons, to the exclusion of the females, or those of a brother are equally divided among brothers, if he dies without issue.

    --Daniel Fenning's Royal English Dictionary, 1775

    (2) Apparently from a British source, although the word is of Gaelic form.

    --Hensleigh Wedgwood's Dictionary of English Etymology, 1878

    (3) Disgavel, to take away the tenure of gavelkind.

    --Rev. John Boag's Imperial Lexicon of the English Language, c.1850

    January 16, 2018