from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. A pecuniary fine anciently paid by a tenant, serf, or bondsman to his lord for the liberty of disposing of a daughter in marriage. This payment, called in law Latin marcheta or mercheta mulierum (the mark-fee of women), was exacted in England, Scotland, and most other countries of Europe.
Certainly the notion, to which Sir John Skene gave currency, in the sixteenth century, that the marchet or merchet was pecuniary commutation for a former right claimed by feudal lord of sleeping with his vassals' daughters on wedding night, derives no support from the account of marchet or merchet given in the most ancient code Scottish laws, the so called Regiam Majestatem.
This fine, called by abbreviation marchet, still continues in some manors in Wales, and is by the Welch written gwahr merched (a maid's fee).
They are to plow, harrow, reape the Lord's corn, and bring it to his barn, and pay marchet for their daughter's marriage.
Also spelled 'merchet,' this word comes from the Old Welsh 'merch,' daughter, girl, wife.