\ ˈməlkt How to pronounce mulct (audio) \

Definition of mulct

 (Entry 1 of 2)


mulcted; mulcting; mulcts

Definition of mulct (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to punish by a fine
2a : to defraud especially of money : swindle
b : to obtain by fraud, duress, or theft

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The Multi-Layered Mulct


A fine assessed as a penalty for an infraction is generally considered justifiable. Fraud, on the other hand, is wrong—it's just the sort of thing that deserves a fine. So in mulct we have a unique word, one that means both "to fine" and "to defraud." The "fine" sense came first. Mulct was borrowed from the Latin word for a fine, which is multa or mulcta. The "fine" sense is still in use, mostly in legal contexts ("the court mulcted the defendant for punitive damages"), but these days mulct is more often used for an illegal act. It has been speculated that the use may have come about by association with the verb milk, in its sense "to exploit, to coerce profit from" (as in "she was milked by the lawyers for everything she had"), but that speculation has never been proven.

Examples of mulct in a Sentence

Noun the loan shark usually imposed a mulct of an additional 20% on overdue payments Verb trying to mulct the insurance company for an accident that never happened

First Known Use of mulct


1584, in the meaning defined above


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mulct


Latin multa, mulcta

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Time Traveler for mulct

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The first known use of mulct was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Mulct.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for mulct


\ ˈməlkt How to pronounce mulct (audio) \

Legal Definition of mulct

Other Words from mulct

mulct transitive verb

History and Etymology for mulct

Latin multa mulcta

More from Merriam-Webster on mulct

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mulct

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