Etymology
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court-martial (n.)

also court martial, "court of military or naval officers to try cases of desertion, mutiny, etc.," 1650s (plural courts martial), originally martial court (1570s), from court (n.) + martial (adj.). Word-order changed on the model of French cour martiale. As a verb, from 1859. Related: Court-martialed. Middle English had court-spiritual "ecclesiastical court" (late 15c.).  

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kung fu (n.)

also kung-fu, 1966, a generalized Western term for Chinese martial arts, from dialectal Chinese kung fu, a term said to refer to any skill acquired through learning or practice.

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amicus curiae 

"person not interested or employed in a cause who wishes to make a suggestion to the court," 1610s, Latin, literally "friend of the court;" plural is amici curiae. From Latin amicus "friend," related to amare "to love" (see Amy) + curia "court" (see curia).

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in facie curiae 

"before the court," legal Latin, from ablative of Latin facies "form, face" (see face (n.)). + genitive of curia "court" (see curia).

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tai chi (n.)

1736, the "supreme ultimate" in Taoism and Neo-Confucianism, from Chinese tai "extreme" + ji "limit." As the name of a form of martial arts training (said to have been developed by a priest in the Sung dynasty, 960-1279) it is first attested 1962, in full, tai chi ch'uan, with Chinese quan "fist."

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in forma pauperis 

legal Latin, literally "in the form of a poor person" (thus exempt from certain court fees, etc.), 1590s; see form (n.) + pauper (n.).

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habeas corpus (n.)

writ requiring a person to be brought before a court, mid-15c., Latin, literally "(you should) have the person," in phrase habeas corpus ad subjiciendum "produce or have the person to be subjected to (examination)," opening words of writs in 14c. Anglo-French documents to require a person to be brought before a court or judge, especially to determine if that person is being legally detained. From habeas, second person singular present subjunctive of habere "to have, to hold" (from PIE root *ghabh- "to give or receive") + corpus "person," literally "body" (see corporeal). In reference to more than one person, habeas corpora.

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ultra vires 

Latin, literally "beyond powers," from ultra "beyond" (see ultra-) + vires "strength, force, vigor, power," plural of vis (see vim). Usually "beyond the legal or constitutional power of a court, etc."

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Star Chamber (n.)

late 14c., apartment in the royal palace at Westminster in which members of the king's council sat to exercise jurisdiction 14-15c., it evolved 15c. into a court of criminal jurisdiction, infamous under James I and Charles I for arbitrary and oppressive proceedings. Abolished 1641. Supposedly so called because gilt stars had been painted on the ceiling. Later there was a star on the door.

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lame duck (n.)

1761, "any disabled person or thing;" especially Stock Exchange slang for "defaulter."

A lame duck is a man who cannot pay his differences, and is said to waddle off. [Thomas Love Peacock, "Gryll Grange," 1861]

Sometimes also in naval use for "an old, slow ship." Modern sense of "public official serving out term after an election" is recorded by 1863, American English. The quote attributed to President Lincoln ("[A] senator or representative out of business is a sort of lame duck. He has to be provided for") is from an anecdote of 1878.

It is well known to everybody who knows anything of its history, that this court [Court of Claims] was made a sort of retreat for lame duck politicians that got wounded and had to retreat before the face of popular condemnation. That is just exactly what it was for, a safe retreat for lame ducks; and it was so filled up; (etc.) [Sen. John P. Hale, New Hampshire, Congressional Globe, Jan. 12, 1863, p.271]
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