One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
1Feudal Law. A fine payable for the offence of shedding blood; (also) a legal action for this offence; (occasionally) †the offence itself (obsolete). Also: the right of levying this fine; (occasionally) †the privilege of exemption from it (obsolete). Now historical.
2Generally. A penalty for murder, especially (usually in form bloodwit) in Islamic jurisprudence.
Old English; earliest use found in Writ of Edward the Confessor, Westminster. From blood + wite. Compare post-classical Latin blodwita, blodewita. Compare also post-classical Latin sanguis, lit. ‘blood’, bloodshed, fine for bloodshed.
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