1 : to punish by a fine
2 a : to defraud especially of money : swindle
b : to obtain by fraud, duress, or theft
Did You Know?
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.
Francis was finally barred from the securities industry when it was discovered he'd been mulcting investors for years.
"Attacking these firms is a crowd-pleasing sport for lawmakers, in part because every constituent has a story about being mulcted by a card issuer." — Michael Hiltzik, The Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2009
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to create a verb that means "to punish by a fine whose amount is fixed by the court": a _ _ r _ e.VIEW THE ANSWER
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP