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1875, originally a legal term for "authorization to a debtor to postpone payment," from neuter of Late Latin moratorius "tending to delay," from Latin morari "to delay," from mora "pause, delay," from PIE *mere- "to hinder, delay." The word didn't come out of italics until 1914. General sense of "a postponement, deliberate temporary suspension" is first recorded 1932. Related: Moratorial.
A period of delay agreed to by parties to a dispute or parties who are negotiating. A moratorium may also be an authorized delay in the repayment of a loan, especially by a nation (as in a moratorium on war debts).