posse comitatus

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From Late Latin posse ‎(to be able (to have)) comitatus ‎(a company).


posse comitatus ‎(uncountable)

  1. (historical) The able-bodied men over 15 in a given county who can be summoned by the sheriff to help keep the peace, or arrest a felon; also a group of men so gathered.
    • 1849, Henry David Thoreau, Resistance to Civil Government:
      They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc.
  2. (figuratively) Any band of men, especially armed or hostile.
    • 1819, Lord Byron, Don Juan, I:
      With him retired his ‘posse comitatus,’ / The attorney last, who linger'd near the door / Reluctantly [...].