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.

verb (tr) obsolete

  1. law to punish by a fine
  2. to punish with any arbitrary penalty

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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