Gerrymandering is the practice of dividing a city, state, or country into voting districts in an unfair way to enable the party in power to retain its control. This word entered the English language in 1812 to describe the redistricting of Massachusetts by its governor, Elbridge Gerry. Through that maneuver Gerry's party won fewer popular votes than the opposition, but because of the gerrymandering won almost three times as many seats.
   Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) served as vice president of the United States under James Madison for a year and a half before he became ill and died. The Madison-Gerry ticket, although successful, lost the state of Massachusetts by a wide margin, proof that the people had not forgiven Gerry for juggling their districts.
   Gerry was born into a wealthy mercantile family at Marblehead, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1762. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a delegate to the United States Constitutional Convention, and a member of the House of Representatives for four years. In 1797, he was sent to France, together with John Marshall and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, to discuss the sensitive problems of French privateering. Talleyrand refused to see them and confronted them with Messrs. X, Y, Z, as reports called them. When the French representatives demanded money, Marshall and Pinckney packed their bags and sailed for home, but Gerry remained until President John Adams ordered him back.
   Gilbert Stuart, the celebrated artist, while visiting the offices of the Boston Sentinel, saw on a wall a map of the new district, which bore the shape of a serpent. He proceeded to add a head, wings, and claws, and remarked to Benjamin Russell, the editor, "That will do for a salamander!" "Better say gerrymander," growled Russell, and so the name given this political reptile insinuated itself into the English language.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • gerrymander — ger·ry·man·der 1 / jer ē ˌman dəralso and originally ger ē / n [Elbridge Gerry (1744–1814) + sala mander; from the shape of an election district formed during Gerry s governorship of Massachusetts] 1: the act or method of gerrymandering 2: a… …   Law dictionary

  • gerrymander — ● gerrymander nom masculin (anglais gerrymander) Découpage électoral destiné à favoriser son auteur. (Le gouverneur américain E. Gerry créa en 1812 une circonscription en forme de salamandre.) …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • gerrymander — 1812 as both a noun and verb, Amer.Eng., from Elbridge Gerry + (sala)mander. Gerry, governor of Massachusetts, was lampooned when his party redistricted the state in a blatant bid to preserve an Antifederalist majority. One Essex County district… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Gerrymander — Ger ry*man der, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Gerrymandered}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Gerrymandering}.] To divide (a State) into districts for the choice of representatives, in an unnatural and unfair way, with a view to give a political party an advantage over… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • gerrymander — meaning ‘to manipulate election districts unfairly’, is originally a US word formed from the name of Elbridge Gerry, governor of Massachusetts in 1812. His name was pronounced with a hard initial g, and the word was at first pronounced likewise,… …   Modern English usage

  • gerrymander — ► VERB ▪ manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favour one party or class. ORIGIN from the name of Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts + SALAMANDER(Cf. ↑salamandrine), from the supposed similarity between a… …   English terms dictionary

  • gerrymander — ☆ gerrymander [jer′ē man΄dər; ] orig. [ ger′i man΄dər ] vt. [satirical coinage after GERRY Elbridge, governor of Mass. when the method was employed (1812) + (SALA)MANDER (the shape of the redistricted Essex County)] 1. to divide (a voting area)… …   English World dictionary

  • gerrymander — 1. verb /dʒ,ˈdʒɛriˌmændə,ˈdʒɛriˌmændɚ/ a) To divide a geographic area into voting districts in such a way as to give an unfair advantage to one party in an election. The superintendent helped gerrymander the school …   Wiktionary

  • gerrymander — ger·ry·man·der (jĕr’ē măn′dər, gĕr’ ) tr.v. ger·ry·man·dered, ger·ry·man·der·ing, ger·ry·man·ders ▸ To divide (a geographic area) into voting districts in a way that gives one party an unfair advantage in elections. n. 1) The act, process, or an… …   Word Histories

  • Gerrymander — Satirische Darstellung der Wahlbezirke Massachusetts aus dem Jahr 1812 Gerrymandering [ˈdʒɛɹɪmændəɹɪŋ], ein Begriff der Politikwissenschaft, ist die absichtliche, dem Stimmgewinn dienende Manipulation der Grenzen von Wahlkreisen bei einem… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • gerrymander — I. noun Etymology: Elbridge Gerry + salamander; from the shape of an election district formed during Gerry s governorship of Mass. Date: 1812 1. the act or method of gerrymandering 2. a district or pattern of districts varying greatly in size or… …   New Collegiate Dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.