MERE. i. (From Lat. merus, pure, unmixed; O. Fr. mier), an adjective primarily indicating something pure and unmixed; thus " mere wine " implied pure and unadulterated wine, as " mere folly " expressed folly pure and simple. Modern usage has, however, given both to the adjective " mere " and the adverb " merely " a deprecatory and disparaging idea, so that expressions like " the mere truth," a " mere statement of fact," etc., often convey the impression that they are far from being " mere " in the sense of " entire " or " absolute," but are, on the contrary, fragmentary and incomplete. The earlier idea of the word is retained in some legal phrases, especially in the phrase " mere motion,'' that is, of one's own initiative without help or suggestion from the outside. Another legal phrase is " mere right" (law Latin jus merum), i.e. right without possession.
2. A word which appears in various forms in several Teutonic and other languages ; cf. Dutch and Ger. M eer. From the cognate Lat. mare are derived the Romanic forms, e.g. Fr. mer, Span, mar, etc.; the word appears also in the derivative "marsh" for " marish "; the ultimate origin has been taken to be an IndoEuropean root, meaning " to die," i.e. to lie waste; cf. Sansk. maru, desert), an arm of the sea or estuary; also the name given to lakes, pools and shallow stretches of water inland. In the Fen countries a mere signifies a marsh or a district nearly always under water.
3.' (Derived from an O. Eng. source, maere, a wall or boundary; cognate with Lat. murus, a wall), a landmark or boundary, also an object indicating the extent of a property without actually enclosing it. A special meaning is that of a road, which forms a dividing line between two places. A " meresman " is an official appointed by parochial authorities to ascertain the exact boundaries of a parish and to report upon the condition of the roads, bridges, waterways, etc., within them. In the mining districts of Derbyshire a mere is a certain measurement of land in which lead-ore is found.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)