Word of the Day



1. to go into a place without the owner’s permission

2. an old word meaning ‘to do something that is not allowed by a moral law’

Origin of the word

From the Latin verb ‘transpassare’ and the old French ‘trespasser’, both of which mean ‘pass across’, the word trespass entered Middle English around 1300.


Trespass is a verb which may refer to the physical act of passing over a borderline or the figurative act of overstepping a moral boundary. In modern English, trespass most often means physically entering a house or land without the permission of the owner or the right to do so. It can also be used when possessions or property have been interfered with illegally. In older usage, trespass is used when speaking about a morally unacceptable way of conducting yourself. When a person behaves excessively toward another, infringing on their privacy or goodwill, they can be said to trespass.

In May 2018, a man scaled an area of scaffolding and got onto the roof of the Palace of Westminster in London. He was soon arrested on suspicion of trespassing. This building is the meeting place of the UK houses of Parliament and was referred to as a designated site by the Metropolitan Police who dealt with his arrest, meaning it has protected status and trespass is unlawful.


“Literature is no one’s private ground, literature is common ground; let us trespass freely and fearlessly and find our own way for ourselves.”

(Virginia Woolf)

“Our Constitution wisely assigns both joint and separate roles to each branch of the government; and a President and a Congress who hold each other in mutual respect will neither permit nor attempt any trespass.”

(John F. Kennedy)


encroachment, infraction, transgression, intrude

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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