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verb, \ə-ˈmərs\

Definition of amerce


  1. transitive verb
  2. :  to punish by a fine whose amount is fixed by the court; broadly :  punish

amercementplay \-ˈmər-smənt\ noun
amerciable play \-ˈmər-sē-ə-bəl, -ˈmər-shə-bəl\ adjective

Did You Know?

If you break the law, you could find yourself "at the mercy" of the court. As you await your punishment (hoping that the judge will in fact be merciful), you may want to ponder the history of "amerce." It begins with the Old French phrase a merci, meaning "at (one's) mercy," which in turn gave rise to the Anglo-French verb amercier (same meaning as "amerce"). Middle English speakers adopted the French word as "amercien," which was later modernized to "amerce." In addition to the legal use, "amerce" can also be used in a more general sense for the infliction of any sort of punishment, monetary or otherwise.

Origin of amerce

Middle English amercien, from Anglo-French amercier, from Old French a merci at (one's) mercy

First Known Use: 15th century

Seen and Heard

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to dishevel or rumple

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