verb \ə-ˈmərs\

Definition of amerce




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


play \-ˈmər-smənt\ noun


play \-ˈmər-sē-ə-bəl, -ˈmər-shə-bəl\ adjective

amerce was our Word of the Day on 05/21/2010. Hear the podcast!

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 and Etymology 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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quaintly unconventional or refined

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