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amerce

[uh-murs] /əˈmɜrs/
verb (used with object), amerced, amercing.
1.
to punish by imposing a fine not fixed by statute.
2.
to punish by inflicting any discretionary or arbitrary penalty.
Origin
1250-1300
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
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for amercement

amerce

/əˈmɜːs/
verb (transitive) (obsolete)
1.
(law) to punish by a fine
2.
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
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Word Origin and History for amercement

amerce

v.

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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Encyclopedia Article for amercement

in English law, an arbitrary financial penalty, formerly imposed on an offender by his peers or at the discretion of the court or the lord. Although the word has become practically synonymous with "fine," there is a distinction in that fines are fixed by statute, whereas amercements are decided by the court. Originally, an amercement represented a commutation of a sentence that required the forfeiture of goods, while a fine was an arrangement agreed upon between the judge and the prisoner to avoid imprisonment. Magna Carta (1215) attempted to regulate the assessment of amercements.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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