amerced; amercing

transitive verb

: to punish by a fine whose amount is fixed by the court
broadly : punish
amercement noun
ə-ˈmər-sē-ə-bəl How to pronounce amerce (audio)

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.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of amerce was in the 14th century


Dictionary Entries Near amerce

Cite this Entry

“Amerce.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!