Compurgation, also called wager of law, is a defence used primarily in medieval law. A defendant could establish his innocence or nonliability by taking an oath and by getting a required number of persons, typically twelve, to swear they believed the defendant's oath.

Compurgation was found in early Germanic law, in Welsh law, and in the English ecclesiastical courts until the 17th century. In common law it was substantially abolished as a defence in felonies by the Constitutions of Clarendon in 1164. The defence was still permitted in civil actions for debt and vestiges of it survived in England until its final abolition in 1833.


  • Baker, JH (2002). An Introduction to English Legal History (4th ed.). London: Butterworths. pp. 5–6. ISBN 0-406-93053-8. 

See also

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Compurgation — Com pur*ga tion, n. [L. compurgatio, fr. compurgare to purify wholly; com + purgare to make pure. See Purge, v. t.] 1. (Law) The act or practice of justifying or confirming a man s veracity by the oath of others; called also {wager of law}. See… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • compurgation — I noun absolution, acquittal, acquittance, alibi, benefit of doubt, clearance, defeat of the prosecution, defense, dismissal, exculpation, excuse, exoneration, favorable verdict to the defendant, innocence, just cause, justification, legal… …   Law dictionary

  • compurgation — [käm΄pər gā′shən] n. [LL compurgatio, a purifying < L compurgatus, pp. of compurgare, to purge, purify < com , intens. + purgare, to PURGE] the former practice of clearing an accused person by the oaths of others testifying to that person s …   English World dictionary

  • compurgation — /kom peuhr gay sheuhn/, n. an early common law method of trial in which the defendant is acquitted on the sworn endorsement of a specified number of friends or neighbors. [1650 60; < ML compurgation (s. of compurgatio), equiv. to com COM +… …   Universalium

  • compurgation — noun Etymology: Late Latin compurgation , compurgatio, from Latin compurgare to clear completely, from com + purgare to purge Date: circa 1658 the clearing of an accused person by oaths of others who swear to the veracity or innocence of the… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Compurgation — At the heart of AS law and custom was the oath which was considered sacred. Compurgation involved the accused person swearing his innocence; at the same time he had to produce a number of other people willing also to swear to the accused s… …   Dictionary of Medieval Terms and Phrases

  • compurgation — n. method of trial in which a defendant is acquitted if a specific number of friends and family swear upon the his/her innocence …   English contemporary dictionary

  • compurgation — [ˌkɒmpə: geɪʃ(ə)n] noun Law, historical acquittal from a charge or accusation obtained by statements of innocence given by witnesses under oath. Origin C17: from med. L. compurgatio(n ), from L. compurgare, from com (expressing intensive force) + …   English new terms dictionary

  • Compurgation — ♦ The process of establishing innocence, or failing to, in an ecclesiastical court, whereby six or usually a dozen men swear to the truth of the accused s assertion of innocence. (Heath, Peter. Church and Realm, 1272 1461, 361) …   Medieval glossary

  • compurgation — com·pur·ga·tion …   English syllables

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.