Latin for head of the dead, used by the old chemists to
designate the residuum of chemicals, when all their volatile matters
had escaped. Anything from which all that rendered it valuable has been
taken away. Thus, a learned scholar paralysed is a mere caput
mortuum of his former self. The French Directory, towards its
close, was a mere caput mortuum of a governing body.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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