Grandfather Clause Definition

A former law in some Southern states waiving electoral literacy requirements for those whose forebears voted before the Civil War, thus keeping the franchise for illiterate whites.
Webster's New World
In some legislation forbidding or regulating a certain activity, a clause which exempts those already engaged in it before the legislation was passed.
Webster's New World
A legislative provision stating that anyone who has previously enjoyed a particular status may continue to do so, despite a change in the applicable law or rules denying that status to anyone newly applying for it.
Webster's New World Law

A clause or section, especially in a law, granting exceptions for people or organisations who were affected by previous conditions.

Many building codes include a grandfather clause exempting older buildings until some amount of remodeling occurs.

Other Word Forms of Grandfather Clause


grandfather clause

Origin of Grandfather Clause

  • From late 19th-century legislation and constitutional amendments passed by a number of U.S. Southern states, which created new literacy and property restrictions on voting, but exempted those whose grandfathers had the right to vote before the Civil War. The intent and effect of such rules was to prevent poor and illiterate African American former slaves and their descendants from voting, but without denying poor and illiterate whites the right to vote.

    From Wiktionary

Find Similar Words

Find similar words to grandfather clause using the buttons below.

Words Starting With

Words Ending With


grandfather clause

Word Length