Time immemorial

Time immemorial is a phrase meaning time extending beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition. The implication is that the subject referred to is, or can be regarded as, indefinitely ancient. The phrase is one of the few cases in the English Language where the postmodifier is an adjective. Modern historians, anthropologists, and others have often criticized the use of the term as a view of contemporary conditions as without history, i.e. as essential and unchanging in nature.

The term has been formally defined for some purposes.

* In English law, "time immemorial" means "a time before legal history, and beyond legal memory." In 1276, this time was fixed by statute as the 3rd September 1189, the date of the coronation of King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart). Proof of unbroken possession or use of any right since that date made it unnecessary to establish the original grant. In 1832, the plan of dating legal memory from a fixed time was abandoned; instead, it was held that rights which had been enjoyed for twenty years (or as against the Crown thirty years) should not be impeached merely by proving that they had not been enjoyed before. [The public domain Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)]
* The Court of Chivalry is said to have defined the period before 1066 as "time immemorial" for the purposes of heraldry. [ [http://members.aol.com/tradbowmd/heraldry/history.htm#time History of Heraldry ] ] [http://www.infokey.com/hall/herald.htm]

The concept of "time immemorial" may be communicated in various ways and lives on in such rhetorical commonplaces as "time out of mind" and "since the mind of man runneth not to the contrary."

This phrase was used in the world's oldest joke [Reuters [http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSKUA14785120080801?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews&rpc=69 World's oldest joke traced back to 1900 BC] ] , dating back to 1900 BC by the Sumerians who inhabited what is now southern Iraq. It goes: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap."


ee also

*From Time Immemorial, a 1984 book about the Arab-Israeli conflict by Joan Peters

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Time immemorial — Immemorial Im me*mo ri*al, a. [Pref. im not + memorial: cf. F. imm[ e]morial.] Extending beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition; indefinitely ancient; as, existing from time immemorial. Immemorial elms. Tennyson. Immemorial usage or… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Time immemorial — Time Time, n.; pl. {Times}. [OE. time, AS. t[=i]ma, akin to t[=i]d time, and to Icel. t[=i]mi, Dan. time an hour, Sw. timme. [root]58. See {Tide}, n.] 1. Duration, considered independently of any system of measurement or any employment of terms… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • time immemorial — ► time immemorial a point of time in the distant past beyond recall or knowledge. Main Entry: ↑time …   English terms dictionary

  • time immemorial — n. 1. time so long past as to be vague 2. Eng. Law beyond legal memory, fixed by statute as prior to 1189, the beginning of the reign of Richard I …   English World dictionary

  • time immemorial — 1189. See acquisitive prescription. Collins dictionary of law. W. J. Stewart. 2001 …   Law dictionary

  • time immemorial — noun the distant past beyond memory • Syn: ↑time out of mind • Hypernyms: ↑past, ↑past times, ↑yesteryear * * * noun 1. a. : a time beyond legal m …   Useful english dictionary

  • time immemorial — 1. Also called time out of mind. time in the distant past beyond memory or record: Those carvings have been there from time immemorial. 2. Law. time beyond legal memory, fixed by statute in England as prior to the beginning of the reign of… …   Universalium

  • time immemorial — time′ immemo′rial n. time in the distant past …   From formal English to slang

  • time immemorial — noun Date: 1602 1. a time antedating a period legally fixed as the basis for a custom or right 2. time so long past as to be indefinite in history or tradition called also time out of mind …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • time immemorial — /ˌtaɪm ɪməˈmɔriəl/ (say .tuym imuh mawreeuhl) noun 1. Also, time out of mind. a time extending back beyond memory or record. 2. Law time beyond legal memory, fixed by English statute as prior to the beginning of the reign of Richard I (1189) …   Australian English dictionary

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