be·​nev·​o·​lence | \ bə-ˈnev-lən(t)s How to pronounce benevolence (audio) , -ˈne-və- \

Definition of benevolence

1 : disposition to do good a king known for his benevolence
2a : an act of kindness
b : a generous gift
3 : a compulsory contribution or tax levied by certain English kings with no other authority than the claim of prerogative (see prerogative sense 1b)

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Part of benevolence comes from the Latin root meaning "wish". The novels of Charles Dickens often include a benevolent figure who rescues the main characters at some point--Mr. Brownlow in Oliver Twist, Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations, Mr. Jarndyce in Bleak House, Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. To be benevolent, it helps to have money, but it's not necessary; kind assistance of a nonfinancial sort may turn out to be lifesaving benevolence as well.

Examples of benevolence in a Sentence

self-effacing as well as selfless, he refused all public acknowledgement of his many benevolences to the community her benevolence towards her employees was such that she actually let one live in her home temporarily
Recent Examples on the Web Americans whose survival and repatriation is now dependent on the Taliban’s benevolence. Don Bentley, National Review, 2 Sep. 2021 This created the impression that patronizing their stores wouldn’t just be a practical transaction or an individual pleasure, but an act of benevolence toward the orderly society those stores supported. Amanda Mull, The Atlantic, 3 Aug. 2021 Over the past five years, these critics helped shatter Silicon Valley’s myth of civic benevolence, while burnishing its image as the ultra-rational overseer of a consumerist future. Joseph Bernstein, Harper's Magazine, 17 Aug. 2021 And finally, Amir sneaks onto a dilapidated fishing boat, named Calypso, that is supposed to carry his uncle to Kos and then the legendary benevolence of the West. Washington Post, 26 July 2021 Karen Williams, chairwoman of the DMN Charities board of directors, also praised donors for their benevolence and for helping the campaign to meet its objective and then some. Praveena Somasundaram, Dallas News, 17 July 2021 As the sun descended, its benevolence seemed to spread largely unobstructed everywhere, while temperatures remained in the mild and seductive 70s. Washington Post, 13 June 2021 Values are the core organizing principles in people’s lives, and religion is positively associated with the values of security, conformity, tradition and benevolence. Sam Hardy, The Conversation, 16 June 2021 The truth, of course, is that DarkSide attacks, like all such criminal activity, were driven by greed rather than benevolence. Davey Winder, Forbes, 15 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'benevolence.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of benevolence

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for benevolence

see benevolent

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The first known use of benevolence was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

13 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Benevolence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for benevolence


be·​nev·​o·​lence | \ bə-ˈne-və-ləns How to pronounce benevolence (audio) \

Kids Definition of benevolence

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Nglish: Translation of benevolence for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of benevolence for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about benevolence


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