DYK: Did you know?
MOOT POINT – which means and irrelevant Argument comes from the Saxon word moot or mote, which meant a meeting to discuss things. In medieval England, moots, or meets, were assemblies or councils where points of government were debated. The country was split into juridicial areas called hundreds and administered via assemblies known as hundredmotes.
The form of government has long since vanished but the term hundred is still in use as the name of the procedural device which gives consent to MPs’ resignation. British MPs aren’t allowed to resign and, when members wish to leave Parliament they may do so by applying for the notional position of Crown Steward and Bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds. In such assemblies points which were put up for discussion were said to be mooted.
The change in meaning has come about following the introduction of ‘moot courts’, which are session where law students train for their profession by arguing hypothetical cases, that is, ‘moot points’. The lack of any substantive outcome from these theoretical cases has led to the ‘unimportant/not worth discussing’ meaning of ‘moot point’, which is what many people accept today.
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