Definition of letter of marque in English:

letter of marque

Line breaks: let¦ter of marque


(usually letters of marque) • historical
  • 1A licence to fit out an armed vessel and use it in the capture of enemy merchant shipping and to commit acts which would otherwise have constituted piracy.
    More example sentences
    • Semi-official entrepreneurs, carrying government-signed letters of marque and reprisal, and known as privateers, also were a significant force in commerce raiding up until the nineteenth century.
    • If, for example, a French vessel seized a British ship, then a letter of marque could be granted that would allow the legal seizure of an item of like value from any French vessel on the high seas.
    • Her business and diplomatic skills proved crucial after a raid on the Catholic-led colony early in 1645 by a ship captain armed with letters of marque from England's Protestant Parliament.
  • 1.1A ship carrying a letter of marque.


late Middle English: Law French marque, from Old French marque 'right of reprisal'.

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