Moratorium

To put a moratorium on something means to ban or prohibit it temporarily. In legal language it also means to authorize a delay in payment of a debt.

The plural can be either moratoriums or moratoria. As with all adopted Latin, adding an is perfectly acceptable, but there will always be some who prefer the Latin conjugation.

History

The word was coined in the late 19th century with its legal definition. It comes from the Latin verb moratorius ‘delaying’, and was written in italics for almost 50 years before being adopted as a fully English word. Over time it gained the more common use meaning.

See the ngram below to track moratorium’s rise and fall of usage.

ngram moratorium

Examples

The higher per-year salary can likely be explained by the Raptors’ desire to sign Vasquez before the free agency moratorium ended, as he might have received an offer sheet that stretched to three or four years. [Sports Illustrated]

The Arizona Republic newspaper published an editorial demanding a moratorium on the practice until it can proved that it will not result in suffering. [Telegraph]

The spill happened in First Nations Secwepemc Territory, whose leaders have called upon Imperial Metals to shut down business within the Secwepemc Nation and called on a moratorium on mining within their territory. [CBC]

Amendment 2 supporters say cities that enact moratoriums could be missing out on helping sick residents. [Sun Sentinel]

Analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC called Tuesday’s anti-fracking vote “a major symbolic victory for environmentalists who have pursued local moratoria as a means of deterring drilling or, at minimum, eroding scale economies within producing regions by fragmenting formations. [Natural Gas Intel]