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Gravamen is not a word you hear every day, but it does show up occasionally in modern-day publications. It comes from the Latin verb gravare, meaning "to burden," and ultimately from the Latin adjective gravis, meaning "heavy." Fittingly, gravamen refers to the part of a grievance or complaint that gives it weight or substance. In legal contexts, gravamen is used, synonymously with gist, to refer to the grounds on which a legal action is sustainable. Gravis has given English several other weighty words, including gravity, grieve, and the adjective grave, meaning "important" or "serious."
Examples of GRAVAMEN
The gravamen of Walter's letter to the editor was that the
newspaper frequently reported on the school system's failures but rarely
covered its successes and improvements.
"In the ultimate legal absurdity, even the prosecutors trying the case
occasionally are barred from seeing the evidence that provides the gravamen of their arguments."
— Petra Bartosiewicz, The Contra Costa (California) Times, 6 Dec. 2009
Word Family Quiz
What is the meaning of the adjective gravid (a descendant of Latin gravis)?