Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for July 8, 2021 is:
mulct MULKT verb
1 : to punish by a fine
2 a : to defraud especially of money : swindle
b : to obtain by fraud, duress, or theft
Francis was barred from the securities industry when it was discovered he had been mulcting investors for years.
“Second, the book peels back, like the skins of an onion, layer after layer of the elaborate series of disguises, aliases and outright false identities by which the subject neatly mulcted sizable fortunes from hundreds of gullible investors in her schemes.” — Richard Raymond III, The Roanoke (Virginia) Times, 19 Feb. 2017
Did you know?
A fine assessed as a penalty for an infraction is generally considered justifiable. Fraud, on the other hand, is wrong—it’s just the sort of thing that deserves a fine. So in mulct we have a unique word, one that means both “to fine” and “to defraud.” The “fine” sense came first. Mulct was borrowed from the Latin word for a fine, which is multa or mulcta. The “fine” sense is still in use, mostly in legal contexts (“the court mulcted the defendant for punitive damages”), but these days mulct is more often used for an illegal act. It has been speculated that the “defraud” use may have developed from an association with the verb milk, in its “to exploit, to coerce profit from” meaning (as in “she was milked by the lawyers for everything she had”), but that speculation has never been proven.