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distrain (di-STRAYN) verb tr., intr.

To seize the property in order to force payment for damages, debt, etc.

[From Middle English distreinen, from Old French destreindre, from Latin distringere, (to draw asunder), from dis- (apart) + stringere (to draw tight). Some other words that derive from the same root are strain, strict, stringent, constrain, restrict.]

"The bailiffs, who distrained the property of Most-Bank on Wednesday, violated the law, which has allowed bank managers to launch a counterattack against them." Companies and Markets; The Moscow Times (Russia); Aug 26 2000.

"Bolingbroke: My father's goods are all distrain'd and sold." William Shakespeare; The Tragedy of King Richard the Second; 16th c.

This week's theme: words from the world of law.


Once you have decided to keep a certain pile, it is no longer yours; for you can't spend it. -Michel De Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

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