[ Informed Resource ][ Glossary of Political Terms]

Welcome to the Informed ReSource glossary of commonly encountered political terms.

This site contains concise, clear definitions of words and phrases commonly encountered in the study of government and politics. This site also includes a lookup tool for finding definitions from the electronic dictionary server at Carnegie-Mellon University.
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This page is still in early development.
In the actual implementation, the glossary list will be longer and more complete, with regular updates and links from other pages.

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The Informed ReSource Glossary

a fortiori
Legal term derived from Latin meaning "for a stronger reason." Said of an inference that follows even more rigorously the logic of a previously accepted conclusion.
Example: In a product dumping case (where certain manufacturers are acused of selling goods below cost to run weaker competitors out of business), it has been exstablished that widgets cost at least $50 to manufacture. Company A has already been convicted of dumping for selling its widgets for $40. Company B is a fortori guilty of dumping when its sells widgets for $30. A fortiori applies since Company B is guilty of dumping for the same reason as Campany A (both are selling below cost), and because Company B's dumping price is even lower than Comany A's.

circumstantial evidence
Legal term for Indirect evidence; secondary facts from which a principal fact may be reasonably inferred.
(adj.) Legal term used to describe matters which fall within the jurisdiction of a specific court or more broadly within the jurisdiction of the judicial system.

(noun) The legal right to vote in public elections.

(verb) To divide a voting area so as to give one political party a majority in as many districts as possible or weaken the voting strength of an ethnic or racial group, urban population, etc.
(noun) A redistricting of voting districts to the advantage of one party or disadvantage of a group, region, etc.
Etymology: satirical coinage after Massachusetts governor William Gerry's 1812 redistricting plan from Gerry+(sala)mander (said to describe the shape of the new Essex district)

grandfather clause
(non) A provision permitting persons engaged in an activity before passage of a law affecting that activity to continue in such activity (or otherwise receive a license or prerogative) without the necessity of fulfilling all that is legally required of persons subsequently undertaking the same activity.

(noun) The average of a set of numbers, computed by adding all members of a set together and dividing that sum by the total number of set members.
Example: For the four element set {2,5,3,4} the mean is computed by dividing the sum of the set elements 2+5+3+4=14 by the number of elements in the set 4. Thus the mean of the set {2,5,3,4} = 14/4 = 3.5. See also
(noun) The middlemost element of a set of numbers, chosen so that most nearly 1/2 of the members of the set are greater/lesser than it.
Example: For sets containing an odd number of elements, such as the five member set {2,5,3,4,6} the median is found by ordering the set elements {2,3,4,5,6} and selecting the element in the middle, in this case 4. For sets containing an even number of elements, such as the six member set {2,5,3,4,6,7} the median is found by ordering the set elements {2,3,4,5,6,7}, summing the two middlemost elements, in this case 4+5=9, and dividing this sum by 2, thus the median of the set is 9/2=4.5. See also

per curiam
Legal term from Latin "by the court"/. Said of a judicial opinion presented as that of the entire court rather than that of any one judge.
(noun) An act, statement, legal decision, case, etc. that may serve as an example, reason, or justification for a later one.

(noun) The changing of a legislative district or of the number of seats a state is entitled to in the Congress to more clearly reflect the population of that district or state. Generally perfomed by the states after each census.
(verb) 1. To send a case back to the court, tribunal or other such body from which the case has been appealed or moved.
2. To send (a prisoner or accused person) back into custody, as to await trial or further investigation.
(noun) Such a sending back. Example: When a judgment is appealed to higher court and subsequently reversed, the higher court usually remands (sends back) the case for a new trial to be carried out consistent with the conditions and principles (i.e. that certain evendence be excluded from the new trial) announced in the higher court's opinion.

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This page was last updated December 5, 1995