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From Academic Kids

A cause célèbre (plural, causes célèbres) is an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy or heated public debate, particularly famous legal cases.

In French, cause means "case" and célèbre means "celebrated." The phrase originated with the 37-volume Nouvelles Causes Célèbres, published in 1763, a volume of famous French court decisions from the 17th and 18th centuries. It came into common usage in English after the 1894 conviction of Alfred Dreyfus for espionage, which attracted worldwide interest.

See also: Landmark decision

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