Middle English forfait from ca. 1300, from Old French forfait (crime), originally the past participle of forfaire (to transgress), and Medieval Latin foris factum. During the 15th century, the sense shifted from the crime to the penalty for the crime.



forfeit (countable and uncountable, plural forfeits)

  1. A penalty for or consequence of a misdemeanor.
    • 1629, John Milton, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
      That he our deadly forfeit should release
  2. A thing forfeited; that which is taken from somebody in requital of a misdeed committed; that which is lost, or the right to which is alienated, by a crime, breach of contract, etc.
    He who murders pays the forfeit of his own life.
  3. Something deposited and redeemable by a sportive fine as part of a game.
  4. (obsolete, rare) Injury; wrong; mischief.
    • a. 1789, Barry St. Leger, Siege of Nicopolis
      to seek arms upon people and country that never did us any forfeit



forfeit (third-person singular simple present forfeits, present participle forfeiting, simple past and past participle forfeited or (rare) forfeit)

  1. To suffer the loss of something by wrongdoing or non-compliance
    He forfeited his last chance of an early release from jail by repeatedly attacking another inmate.
  2. To lose a contest, game, match, or other form of competition by voluntary withdrawal, by failing to attend or participate, or by violation of the rules
    Because only nine players were present, the football team was forced to forfeit the game.
  3. To be guilty of a misdeed; to be criminal; to transgress.
  4. To fail to keep an obligation.


Derived termsEdit



forfeit (not comparable)

  1. Lost or alienated for an offense or crime; liable to penal seizure.