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[uh-murs] /əˈmɜrs/
verb (used with object), amerced, amercing.
to punish by imposing a fine not fixed by statute.
to punish by inflicting any discretionary or arbitrary penalty.
Origin of amerce
1250-1300; Middle English amercy < Anglo-French amerci(er) to fine, representing (estre) a merci (to be) at (someone's) mercy. See a-5, mercy
Related forms
amerceable, adjective
amercement, noun
amercer, noun
unamerceable, adjective
unamerced, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for amerce
Historical Examples
  • But perhaps I could pay you a mina of silver: in that sum, then, I amerce myself.

  • In your greatness ye shall change it; with your justice ye shall purify it; with your clemencies ye should it chasten and amerce.

    Privy Seal Ford Madox Ford
  • Nay, but they will hold thee to ransom, and detain thee till it is brought: I heard them amerce thee at a thousand marks.

    The House of Walderne A. D. Crake
  • I amerce myself, then, to you in that sum; and they will be sufficient sureties for the money.

British Dictionary definitions for amerce


verb (transitive) (obsolete)
(law) to punish by a fine
to punish with any arbitrary penalty
Derived Forms
amerceable, adjective
amercement, noun
amercer, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Anglo-French amercier, from Old French à merci at the mercy (because the fine was arbitrarily fixed); see mercy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for amerce

1215, earlier amercy, Anglo-French amercier "to fine," from merci "mercy, grace" (see mercy). The legal phrase estre a merci "to be at the mercy of" (a tribunal, etc.) was corrupted to estre amercié in an example of how a legalese adverbial phrase can become a verb (cf. abandon). The sense often was "to fine arbitrarily."

Frans hom ne seit amerciez pour petit forfet. [Magna Charta]
Related: Amercement; amerciable.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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