sit in judgment


sit in judgment (idiomatic phrase)
/sɪt ɪn ˈdʒʌdʒmənt/


  • to judge the morality or worthiness of someone or something without having official authority.
  • to make a decision or pass judgment in a matter, often with a sense of authority.
  • to express judgments about someone’s behavior or actions from a moral standpoint.
  • to take on the role of deciding the outcome or resolution of a dispute or case.
  • literally, to officially take on the role of a judge in a legal proceeding.

Example Sentences

  1. He has no right to sit in judgment on how others live their lives.
  2. The council members will sit in judgment over the new policy proposals next Monday.
  3. The committee will sit in judgment over the new disciplinary cases tomorrow.
  4. He tends to sit in judgment on his friends’ life choices, even when not asked.
  5. The magistrate will sit in judgment during the trial next week.

Origin and History

The idiom “sit in judgment” has a rich history rooted in both literal and figurative uses. Its origins can be traced back to the early functions of judicial systems and religious practices. The idiom encapsulates a journey from literal judicial practices to broader moral and societal applications. Its enduring relevance underscores human tendencies to assess and judge, both officially and informally, across different contexts and eras.

Historical Judicial Context

The phrase “sit in judgment” literally referred to judges presiding over court cases, a practice dating back to ancient legal systems. Judges, seated in elevated positions, symbolized their authority to make legal decisions. This literal sense of the phrase is well-documented and widely accepted.

Religious and Moral Judgments

Beyond the courtroom, the idiom evolved to encompass moral and ethical evaluations. Religious texts often depict figures of authority, like priests or prophets, sitting in judgment over people’s moral conduct. Various religious traditions find this extension of the idiom to moral contexts, reflecting the interwoven nature of legal and moral judgments.

Figurative Use and Everyday Language

In contemporary usage, “sit in judgment” often implies an informal or unauthorized evaluation of someone’s actions or character. This figurative sense highlights the notion of one person assuming the right to judge another, usually without official capacity. It reflects societal tendencies to make quick judgments about others’ behaviors, often without comprehensive understanding or authority.

Theories of Evolution

Some theories suggest that the idiom’s evolution parallels changes in societal structures, where formal judicial processes influence common speech. As legal systems became more established, the concept of judgment extended metaphorically to everyday interactions, reflecting social dynamics and interpersonal relationships.

Share your opinions

What's on your mind?