What may be the source of the phrase "miscarriage of justice"?

I keep hearing this phrase being used for cases where an innocent has been convicted. While the phrase paints quite a picture, I'm not sure as to how it has come to be used.

Note: I've checked on its wiki page but there is nothing to suggest its origin.

  • 2
    It was not originally intended to paint a picture, anymore than the phrase "commercial intercourse."
    – herisson
    Jun 24, 2016 at 6:04
  • 2
    The learned jury has conceived and conceived but hasn't delivered yet.
    – Kris
    Jun 24, 2016 at 6:23
  • thefreedictionary.com/miscarriage
    – Kris
    Jun 24, 2016 at 6:35
  • 1
    The etymology makes it clear that the use of the term to mean "mistake" predates the medical use by 80 years.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 24, 2016 at 12:28

1 Answer 1


It's a set phrase, from 1875 (Etymonline):


  • 1580s, "mistake, error;" 1610s, "misbehavior;" see miscarry + -age. Meaning "untimely delivery" is from 1660s. Miscarriage of justice is from 1875.

  • (now rare except in miscarriage of justice) A failure; a mistake or error. [from 16thc.]

    • 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, III.ii: - for feare least blame / Of her miscarriage should in her be fond, / She wist not how t'amend, nor how it to withstond. (Wiktionary)

Miscarriage justice:

  • a situation in which someone is punished by the law courts for a crime that they have not committed: Many people oppose the death penalty because of the possibility of miscarriages of justice.

(Cambridge Dictionary)

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