misdemeanor / high misdemeanor
In current U.S. legal parlance, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime. It is contrasted with a felony. This sense dates to 1504 and Act 19 Hen. VII, c. 14 §8:
This Acte to take his effect and begynnyng for such reteynours and offences and other Mysdemeanours as shalbe doon...contrary to the forme of this acte.
This distinction between felonies and misdemeanors in British law was abolished in 1967, but it is retained in the U.S.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton