Business, Legal & Accounting Glossary

Definition: Fine

Full Definition of Fine

A fine is money paid usually to superior authority, usually governmental authority, and in respect of a crime, but also in some other contexts.

Criminal Penalty

The most usual use of the term, fine, relates to a financial punishment for the commission of minor crimes or as the settlement of a claim. A synonym, typically used in civil law actions, is mulct.

One common example of a fine is money paid for violations of traffic laws. Currently in English Common Law relatively small fines are used either in place of or alongside community service orders for low-level criminal offences. Larger fines are also given independently or alongside shorter prison sentences where the judge or magistrate considers a considerable amount of retribution is necessary but there is unlikely to be a significant danger to the public. For instance, fraud is often punished by very large fines since fraudsters are typically debarred from the position or profession they abused to commit their crimes.

Fines can also be used as a form of tax. Money for bail may be applied toward a fine.

A day-fine is a fine that, above a minimum, is based on personal income.

Fines are considered to be a cost-efficient and fair way of punishment for those who commit a non-violent offence. Lengthy prison sentences for minor offences such as drug possession cost taxpayers more, remove otherwise productive citizens from society, and impose a fear on society as a whole because of over-policing and excessive prosecution.

Early examples of fines include the Weregild or blood money payable under Anglo-Saxon common law for causing a death. The murderer would be expected to pay a sum of money or goods dependent on the social status of the victim.

Fines In English Land Transactions

A fine on alienation, in feudal law, was a sum of money paid to the lord by a tenant when he had occasion to make over his land to another. It is similar in nature to a relief, a payment made by an heir to the lord to receive his inheritance. The term fine is also a synonym for a premium, a sum paid to the landlord at the start of a lease or for the extension of the term of an existing lease (for example, to add an additional life to the term of a lease for lives).

A fine of lands (sometimes called a final concord) was a species of conveyance (abolished in England in 1833). It took the form of a fictitious suit compromised or terminated by the acknowledgement of the previous owner that such land was the right of the other party (a purchaser or other grantee). The court provided each party with a copy ‘chirograph’ of the fine and kept a third copy (known as a foot of fine). This was a necessary part of English conveyancing, where a wife was consenting to bar her right to dower, or in certain circumstances where an entail was to be barred. In other circumstances, a Common Recovery was necessary for this purpose.

Cite Term

To help you cite our definitions in your bibliography, here is the proper citation layout for the three major formatting styles, with all of the relevant information filled in.

Page URL
Modern Language Association (MLA):
Fine. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. September 28, 2021
Chicago Manual of Style (CMS):
Fine. Payroll & Accounting Heaven Ltd. (accessed: September 28, 2021).
American Psychological Association (APA):
Fine. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from website:

Definition Sources

Definitions for Fine are sourced/syndicated and enhanced from:

  • A Dictionary of Economics (Oxford Quick Reference)
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Accounting
  • Oxford Dictionary Of Business & Management

This glossary post was last updated: 23rd April, 2020 | 66 Views.