Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


noun char·i·ty \ˈcher-ə-tē, ˈcha-rə-\

Simple Definition of charity

  • : the act of giving money, food, or other kinds of help to people who are poor, sick, etc.; also : something (such as money or food) that is given to people who are poor, sick, etc.

  • : an organization that helps people who are poor, sick, etc.

  • : the organizations that help people in need

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of charity

plural charities

  1. 1 :  benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity

  2. 2 a :  generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also :  aid given to those in need b :  an institution engaged in relief of the poor c :  public provision for the relief of the needy

  3. 3 a :  a gift for public benevolent purposes b :  an institution (as a hospital) founded by such a gift

  4. 4 :  lenient judgment of others

Examples of charity in a sentence

  1. The holidays are a time for charity and good will.

  2. She refused to accept charity.

  3. The dinner was held to raise funds for several charities.

  4. She runs a local charity that gives books to children.

  5. All the money will go to charity.

Origin of charity

Middle English charite, from Anglo-French charité, from Late Latin caritat-, caritas Christian love, from Latin, dearness, from carus dear; akin to Old Irish carae friend, Sanskrit kāma love

First Known Use: 13th century

Synonym Discussion of charity

mercy, charity, clemency, grace, leniency mean a disposition to show kindness or compassion. mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it <threw himself on the mercy of the court>. charity stresses benevolence and goodwill shown in broad understanding and tolerance of others <show a little charity for the less fortunate>. clemency implies a mild or merciful disposition in one having the power or duty of punishing <the judge refused to show clemency>. grace implies a benign attitude and a willingness to grant favors or make concessions <by the grace of God>. leniency implies lack of severity in punishing <criticized the courts for excessive leniency>.

Rhymes with charity

CHARITY Defined for Kids


noun char·i·ty \ˈcher-ə-tē\

Definition of charity for Students

plural charities

  1. 1 :  love for others

  2. 2 :  kindliness especially in judging others <… I pray you mercy of my fault, and that ye will of your kindness and your charity forgive it … — Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee>

  3. 3 :  the giving of aid to the needy

  4. 4 :  aid (as food or money) given to those in need

  5. 5 :  an organization or fund for helping the needy

Law Dictionary


noun char·i·ty

Legal Definition of charity

plural charities

  1. :  a gift for humanitarian, philanthropic, or other purposes beneficial to the public (as maintaining a public building); also :  an institution (as a hospital or school) or organization founded by such a gift — compare private foundation

Additional Notes on charity

Statutory definitions of what institutions and organizations qualify as charities vary. Organizations that are primarily involved in political campaigns or lobbying do not qualify as charities for tax purposes, but trusts for them may be considered charitable. In addition to tax-exempt status, charities have also generally been granted immunity from tort suits.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up charity? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


expressing little or no emotion

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.