wergeld

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wergeld was the fixed amount, or blood-price, payable by a killer and his kin to his victim's kinsmen. A man's kin was obliged to seek vengeance for his untimely death, but payment of wergeld was an alternative to blood-feud, and a means of keeping order in a violent society. The amount of wergeld was also an important mark of social status. In the earliest written Anglo-Saxon law code, a nobleman's wergeld was 300 shillings, three times that of a ceorl.

Audrey MacDonald

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wergeld, wergild (hist.) price set upon a man according to rank. OE. wergeld, WS. -ġild, f. wer man (= L. vir) + ġield YIELD. The OE. forms were taken up by antiquaries in XVII.

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wergeld in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon law, the price put on a man according to his rank, payable as a fine or compensation by a person guilty of homicide or certain other crimes.