rotten borough

rotten borough

noun
1.
(before the Reform Bill of 1832) any English borough that had very few voters yet was represented in Parliament.
2.
an election district that has more representatives in a legislative body than the number of its constituents would normally call for.

Origin:
1805–15

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Collins
World English Dictionary
rotten borough
 
n
Compare pocket borough (before the Reform Act of 1832) any of certain English parliamentary constituencies with only a very few electors

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Encyclopedia Britannica
Encyclopedia

rotten borough

depopulated election district that retains its original representation. The term was first applied by English parliamentary reformers of the early 19th century to such constituencies maintained by the crown or by an aristocratic patron to control seats in the House of Commons. Just before the passage of the Reform Act of 1832, more than 140 parliamentary seats of a total of 658 were in rotten boroughs, 50 of which had fewer than 50 voters. See also pocket borough.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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