Kangaroo Court – Origin and Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

The idiom kangaroo court means a judicial proceeding or assembly that either disregards or makes a mockery of established laws and procedures. Picture this: a court run by kangaroos, hopping hastily to hasty judgments without due consideration. It’s a vivid image, isn’t it? However, contrary to what you might expect, the origins of this phrase lie not in Australia but in America, dating back to the 19th century.

Idioms are phrases whose meanings can’t be pinned down just by looking at the individual words. Instead, they offer us a richer, more colorful way to express thoughts and ideas, wrapped up in the tapestry of cultural and historical anecdotes. While sometimes they might leave you scratching your head if taken literally, they’re pivotal in adding spice and nuance to our conversations.

Eager to unravel the stories behind this idiom? Stick around as we explore its origin, meaning, and usage.

Kangaroo Court Idiom Meaning Explained

Kangaroo Court – Origin and Meaning

The phrase kangaroo court implies a courtroom or judicial proceeding that lacks legitimacy. Instead of adhering to the rule of law and ensuring fair proceedings, a kangaroo court operates on whims, biases, or ulterior motives, rendering it illegitimate in the eyes of justice.

Good examples of this in our real world would be things like public lynchings, mobs of civilians taking matters into their own hands, elected leaders disregarding law and policy for their own personal gain, etc.

Kangaroo Court Origin and Etymology

Kangaroo Court Ngram
Kangaroo court usage trend.

This term first surfaced in the American West during the 19th century in a newspaper printed in Mississippi. It was often used to describe the haphazardly conducted courtrooms in mining camps and frontier settlements, where established legal procedures were as rare as water in the desert.

And while no kangaroos were involved (they’re Australian, after all), the court’s proceedings could hop from one thing to another with little rhyme or reason.

Synonyms for Kangaroo Court

If you’re not a fan of kangaroos, try one of these alternative phrases that hold the same meaning.

  • Sham court
  • Mock trial
  • Show trial
  • Mustang court
  • Phony court
  • Drumhead court-martial

Kangaroo Court Examples in a Sentence

Kangaroo Court – Origin and Meaning 1

  • The proceedings were nothing more than a kangaroo court with no regard for justice.
  • I know a lot of people believe that his trial was a kangaroo court that had predetermined the outcome from the start.
  • “This is a kangaroo court!” shouted the defendant, frustrated with the unfair treatment.
  • The human resources department conducted what felt like a kangaroo court during the internal investigation.
  • When the kids played judge and jury, their sibling disputes often turned into a kangaroo court.
  • The accused never got a fair trial; it was a kangaroo court from start to finish.
  • She was concerned that the community meeting had turned into a kangaroo court after the mayor changed the policy against the majority vote.
  • Without proper legal procedures, any courtroom can devolve into a kangaroo court.
  • “We can’t let this become a kangaroo court,” the lawyer insisted.

Court Adjourned, But Keep Hopping!

So the next time someone refers to something as a kangaroo court, you’ll not only know that it’s a trial of questionable fairness but also that it’s as American as apple pie—just with a little more bounce. Keep your eyes peeled for more quirky idioms just like this one, and continually expand your vocabulary!