be·​nev·​o·​lence bə-ˈnev-lən(t)s How to pronounce benevolence (audio)
: disposition to do good
a king known for his benevolence
: an act of kindness
: a generous gift
: a compulsory contribution or tax levied by certain English kings with no other authority than the claim of prerogative (see prerogative sense 1b)

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

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 That benevolence recently resulted in the Olmsted Falls fire department receiving a $14,492 grant to replace 1,750 feet of five-inch line. John Benson, cleveland, 30 Nov. 2022 Cost Plus Drugs, which launched in January, is Cuban’s attempt to prove that disruption can be a form of benevolence. Time, 17 Nov. 2022 Black antislavery activists neither possessed the luxury of benevolence nor succumbed to the romance of the personal. Jane Kamensky, WSJ, 2 Dec. 2022 The bright benevolence of Saturday afternoon’s autumn warmth seemed to belie the significance of the day’s position on the calendar: at the start of four months of minimum daylight and maximum darkness. Martin Weil, Washington Post, 23 Oct. 2022 But had Preston—a cool-headed, popular officer with a reputation for benevolence—ever issued a command? Stacy Schiff, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Sep. 2022 Web2, with its pervasive user surveillance and reliance on the benevolence of the tech leaders of this world, is not the answer. Max Thake, Rolling Stone, 27 Sep. 2022 Is Philine a psychotic demon in a wimple, or a terrified and terrifying product of an old-school strain of Catholicism that prizes showy denial and self-discipline over sincere benevolence? Guy Lodge, Variety, 19 Aug. 2022 The benevolence of companies is a terribly shaky safety net. Melissa Jeltsen, The Atlantic, 18 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

Word History


see benevolent

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near benevolence

Cite this Entry

“Benevolence.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


be·​nev·​o·​lence bə-ˈnev(-ə)-lən(t)s How to pronounce benevolence (audio)

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