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See more synonyms for amerce on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), a·merced, a·merc·ing.
  1. to punish by imposing a fine not fixed by statute.
  2. to punish by inflicting any discretionary or arbitrary penalty.
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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 formsa·merce·a·ble, adjectivea·merce·ment, nouna·merc·er, nounun·a·merce·a·ble, adjectiveun·a·merced, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


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.

    Apology, Crito, and Phaedo of Socrates


  • 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.

  • I amerce myself, then, to you in that sum; and they will be sufficient sureties for the money.

British Dictionary definitions for amerce


verb (tr) obsolete
  1. law to punish by a fine
  2. to punish with any arbitrary penalty
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Derived Formsamerceable, adjectiveamercement, nounamercer, 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

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper