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Meaning of grandfather clause

grand'father clause"

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. a clause in the constitutions of some Southern states after 1890 intended to permit whites to vote while disfranchising blacks: it exempted from new literacy and property qualifications for voting those men entitled to vote before 1867 and their lineal descendants.
  2. any legal provision that exempts a business, class of persons, etc., from a new government regulation that would affect prior rights and privileges.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.