Cross examination

Posted by Baceseras on February 11, 2008 at 15:32:

In Reply to: Cross examination posted by ESC on February 11, 2008 at 11:02:

: : Where did the term "cross examination" come from?

: Direct examination/cross examination (
: dictionary/cross%20examination ) are legal terms. I am guessing that it relates to the attorneys' footpaths crossing as they go up to the witness stand and back.

According to Oxford Eng. Dict., the sense of 'cross' as an adverb meaning contrary, opposed, or adverse goes back at least to the early seventeennth century (1614 for the first certain attribution; but the first that clearly shows the same sense as in 'cross-examine' is 1638, Chillingworth's "Religion of Protestants": "To foist in two others, clean crosse to the Doctor's purpose").

Oxford finds the verb 'to cross-examine' in print first in 1664, but logically it must have been current earlier, since that first printed example is already a wry twist on the meaning (in the satiric poem "Hudibras" it's applied to the action of moths in someone's small-linens). Three years later we get the exact sense in print, in a devotional work "The Decay of Christian Piety" : "If we may but cross-examine and interrogate their actions against their words, these will soon confess the invalidity of their solemnest confessions."