Etymology
Advertisement

mortmain (n.)

"inalienable ownership," mid-15c., from Anglo-French morte mayn (mid-14c.), Old French mortemain, literally "dead hand," from Medieval Latin mortua manus; for first element see mortal (adj.); second is from PIE root *man- (2) "hand." Probably a metaphorical expression on the notion of dead hands as those that cannot alienate.

updated on February 25, 2019

Advertisement
Advertisement
Definitions of mortmain from WordNet

mortmain (n.)
real property held inalienably (as by an ecclesiastical corporation);
Synonyms: dead hand
mortmain (n.)
the oppressive influence of past events or decisions;
Synonyms: dead hand / dead hand of the past
Etymologies are not definitions. From wordnet.princeton.edu, not affiliated with etymonline.