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

lenient

play
adjective le·nient \ˈlē-nē-ənt, -nyənt\

Simple Definition of lenient

  • : allowing a lot of freedom and not punishing bad behavior in a strong way : not harsh, severe, or strict

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of lenient

  1. 1 :  exerting a soothing or easing influence :  relieving pain or stress

  2. 2 :  of mild and tolerant disposition; especially :  indulgent

leniently

adverb

Examples of lenient in a sentence

  1. By giving one more person—the executive—the power to reduce (but not to increase) punishments, our constitutions (both Federal and state) seem to be sending an important message: that in a world in which errors are inevitable, it is better to err on the side of overly lenient, rather than overly harsh, punishment. —Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review, 16 July 1989

  2. He could trust himself, he said … to be more lenient than perhaps his father had been to himself; his danger, he said … would be rather in the direction of being too indulgent … —Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903

  3. But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out. —Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847

  4. a teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved

  5. Many people felt that the punishment was too lenient.



Did You Know?

Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of "lenient" referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by "lenitive," an earlier derivative of "lenire" that was commonly used with "electuary" ("lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed "lenis" to describe speech sounds that are softened - for instance, the "t" sound in "gutter" is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in "toe" is fortis.

Origin and Etymology of lenient

Latin lenient-, leniens, present participle of lenire to soften, soothe, from lenis soft, mild; probably akin to Lithuanian lėnas tranquil — more at let


First Known Use: 1652


LENIENT Defined for Kids

lenient

play
adjective le·nient \ˈlē-nē-ənt, ˈlēn-yənt\

Definition of lenient for Students

  1. :  being kind and patient :  not strict <a lenient teacher>

leniently

adverb



Learn More about lenient


Seen and Heard

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

WORD OF THE DAY

not forbidden by law

Get Word of the Day daily email!

WORD GAMES

Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!

two-chairs-on-a-pier-by-the-ocean-in-summer

Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?

estival vernal brumal hiemal
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

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

TAKE THE QUIZ