Weregild (also spelled wergild, wergeld (in archaic/historical usage of English), weregeld, etc.), also known as man price, was a value placed on every being and piece of property, for example in the Frankish Salic Code. If property was stolen, or someone was injured or killed, the guilty person would have to pay weregild as restitution to the victim's family or to the owner of the property.[1][2]

Weregild payment was an important legal mechanism in early Germanic society; the other common form of legal reparation at this time was blood revenge. The payment was typically made to the family or to the clan.

No distinction was made between murder and manslaughter until these distinctions were instituted by the re-introduction of Roman law in the 12th century.[3]

Payment of the weregild was gradually replaced with capital punishment due to Christianization, starting around the 9th century, and almost entirely by the 12th century when weregild began to cease as a practice throughout the Holy Roman Empire.[4]

Etymology and related concepts

The word weregild is composed of were, meaning "man", and geld, meaning "payment or fee", as in Danegeld. Geld or Jeld was the Old English and Old Frisian word for money, and still is in Dutch, Frisian, German and Afrikaans. The Danish word gæld and Norwegian gjeld both mean "debt". "-Gäld" is also a constituent of some Swedish words, having the same meaning: e.g. återgälda (retribute, return favor), gengäld (in return/exchange), vedergälda (revenge), and the formal/legal term gäldenär (geldeneer, referring to someone who is indebted). The word survives in English in the word "yield"; an equivalent reconstruction in Modern English of the term would therefore be *manyield or *wereyield.

The same concept outside Germanic culture is known as blood money. Words include ericfine in Ireland, galanas in Wales, veriraha in Finnish, vira ("вира") in Russia and główszczyzna in Poland.

In the Arab world, the very similar institution of diyya is maintained into the present day.

Other Languages
Ænglisc: Wergyld
català: Wergeld
čeština: Wergeld
dansk: Mandebod
Deutsch: Wergeld
español: Wergeld
français: Wergeld
Frysk: Wearjild
galego: Wergeld
հայերեն: Վերգելդ
Bahasa Indonesia: Weregild
italiano: Guidrigildo
Lingua Franca Nova: Uergeld
Nederlands: Weergeld
norsk: Mannebot
português: Veregildo
română: Wergeld
русский: Вергельд
svenska: Mansbot
українська: Вергельд