One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of various fines relating to sexual relations and marriage; especially a fine payable by a male serf to his lord for having illicit sexual relations with a female serf; (sometimes) specifically = childwite. Also as a mass noun: such fines collectively.
Middle English. Apparently ultimately a variant or alteration of lairwite, perhaps based on a misreading of y as þ in forms like leyrewite lairwite (although no forms with þ are attested), or perhaps based on a misreading of ch as th in lecherwite.
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