: the material or significant part of a grievance or complaint
The gravamen of Walter's letter to the editor was that the newspaper frequently reported on the school system's failures but rarely covered its successes and improvements.
Did you know?
"Gravamen" is not a word you hear every day, but it does show up occasionally in modern-day publications. It comes from the Latin verb "gravare," meaning "to burden," and ultimately from the Latin adjective "gravis," meaning "heavy." Fittingly, "gravamen" refers to the part of a grievance or complaint that gives it weight or substance. In legal contexts, "gravamen" is used, synonymously with "gist," to refer to the grounds on which a legal action is sustainable. "Gravis" has given English several other weighty words, including "gravity," "grieve," and the adjective "grave," meaning "important" or "serious."
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