• synonyms


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 amerced

Historical Examples

  • But even in this court it was the law "that none be amerced but by his peers."

    An Essay on the Trial by Jury

    Lysander Spooner

  • I have been thrust into prison, and amerced in a heavy fine.

    Thoughts on African Colonization

    William Lloyd Garrison

  • One found guilty of it could be fined and imprisoned as well as amerced.

  • For a trifling riot in the City (a mere pretext), the mayor and aldermen were amerced in the sum of £6,000.

    Old and New London

    Walter Thornbury

  • Earls and barons shall be amerced only by their peers, and only in accordance with the seriousness of the offense.

British Dictionary definitions for amerced


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 amerced



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