Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Witenagemote Definition:

An assembly of local elders in medieval England.

Related Terms: Justiciar

Also spelled wytena gemot, witenagemot or simply witan, witen, or whitten.

An assembly of the nobles and the commoners in Anglo-Saxon times, inspired by the similar tradition in medieval Germany, the wittena-gemote.

Baker described the witenagemot as the ancestor of the king's court (curia regis) and of parliament and the privy council:

"... meeting of the witan or royal dvisers."

Edward the Elder is said to have been chosen by the Witan to succeed his father Alfred.

Also used to denote smaller groups of elders of a community who met to decide on matters of peace or war or to give their advice to their monarch on such questions.

From Archibald Brown’s 1874 law dictionary:

“An assembly of wise men, used distinctly to denote the parliament of Anglo-Saxon times.”

According to the multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed.:

"Witenagemot: Asembly of wise men; The assembly of the witan, the national council of Anglo-Saxon times."

REFERENCES:

  • Baker, J. H., An Introduction to English Legal History, 14th Ed. (London: Buterworhs LexieNixis, 2002), page 17
  • Brown, Archibald, A New Law Dictionary and Institute of the Whole Law for the Use of Students, the Legal Profession and the Public (London: Stevens & Sons, 1874)
  • Simpson, J. and Weiner, E., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed. Volume 20 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), page 442.

Categories & Topics:


Always looking up definitions? Save time with our search provider (modern browsers only)

If you find an error or omission in Duhaime's Law Dictionary, or if you have suggestion for a legal term, we'd love to hear from you!