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In a Word: Gravamen

Each week, The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:

GRAVAMEN

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Terms from law sometimes sidle into the general language. One such is

gravamen

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(pronounced gruh-VAY-men), meaning the most serious part of a complaint or accusation. It derives from the Latin

gravis

, "heavy," and came into English in the 17th century as an ecclesiastical term for formal presentation of a grievance.

Example:

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In the prosecution of John Edwards, the gravamen of the case is not that he was unfaithful, or fathered an illegitimate child, or lied repeatedly to conceal the affair and his paternity, but that he used campaign contributions to effect a cover-up.

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