Word of the Day


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1. a change made to a law or agreement

2. one of the changes that has been made to the US Constitution

3. a change made in a document or plan

Origin and usage

The noun amendment has been used in English for a very long time, being first recorded at the end of the 13th century. It is formed by combining the verb amend with the suffix -ment. The verb was first used in the early 13th century in a now obsolete sense with the meaning to free someone from faults, and the original meaning of the noun was related to this. The more general meaning, the third one above, was first recorded at the end of the 16th century, while the legal and political meaning of amendment, which is now the dominant one, dates from the late 17th century. The verb amend comes from the Latin ’emendare’, to free from fault or to correct. The ‘e’ in the original Latin is retained in the less common verb ’emend’, which means to correct mistakes in something, especially a piece of writing before it is printed.


The purpose of an amendment to a law or a text is to improve it, either by removing faults or inconsistencies, or in response to changed circumstances. Some of the best-known amendments are those made to the US Constitution: since it was put into operation in 1789, 33 amendments have been approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification; of these, 27 have been ratified and have become part of the Constitution. The first 10, which were adopted and ratified simultaneously in 1791, are known as the Bill of Rights.

Amendment is often the object of one of a range of specific verbs: so amendments can be proposed, tabled, or introduced; they can also be put down or forward; they can be approved, adopted, passed or ratified, or conversely opposed, defeated or rejected.


“The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is beside the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.”
(Anthony Kennedy)

Related words

annexe, attachment, insertion

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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