Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A 15th-century to 17th-century English court consisting of judges who were appointed by the Crown and sat in closed session on cases involving state security.
  • n. A court or group that engages in secret, harsh, or arbitrary procedures.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. An ancient high court exercising jurisdiction in certain cases, mainly criminal, which sat without the intervention of a jury. It consisted of the king's council, or of the privy council only with the addition of certain judges. It could proceed on mere rumor or examine witnesses; it could apply torture. It was abolished by the Long Parliament in 1641.
  • n. Any court, committee, or other tribunal which exercises arbitrary and unaccountable power, or uses unfair or illegal methods, in investigation or judgment of persons.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. [capitalized] In English history, a court of civil and criminal jurisdiction at Westminster, constituted in view of offenses and controversies most frequent at the royal court or affecting the interests of the crown, such as maintenance, fraud, libel, conspiracy, riots resulting from faction or oppression, but freely taking jurisdiction of other crimes and misdemeanors also, and administering justice by arbitrary authority instead of according to the common law.
  • n. Any tribunal or committee which proceeds by secret, arbitrary, or unfair methods: also used attributively: as, star-chamber proceedings; star-chamber methods.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. a former English court that became notorious for its arbitrary methods and severe punishments

Etymologies

So called because the ceiling of the original courtroom was decorated with stars.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • To abandon Oxford, was to dash from him at once all those fair prospects which had hitherto shone before him in his career as a student, — to shut against himself the door, not only of honourable preferment, but, as it probably at this time appeared to his mind, of Christian usefulness, — to incur the inevitable displeasure of that prelate, whose keen and sleepless efforts to search out all who were opposed to his policy had already subjected every corner of the realm to a vigilant and minute inspection, and whose cruel and malignant spirit was already finding desolating scope in the unconstitutional measures and atrocities of the Star Chamber and the High Commission.

    Life of Dr Owen

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