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"seizure by way of reprisal," mid-15c., in letters of marque "official permission to capture enemy merchant ships," from Anglo-French mark (mid-14c.), via Old French from Old Provençal marca "reprisal," from marcar "seize as a pledge, mark," probably from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German marchon "delimit, mark;" see mark (n.1)), but the sense evolution is difficult.