noun char·i·ty \ ˈcher-ə-tē , ˈcha-rə- \
|Updated on: 8 Aug 2018

Definition of charity

plural charities
1 a : generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also : aid given to those in need
  • received charity from the neighbors
b : an institution engaged in relief of the poor
  • raised funds for several charities
c : public provision for the relief of the needy
  • too proud to accept charity
2 : benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
  • The holidays are a time for charity and goodwill.
3 a : a gift for public benevolent purposes
b : an institution (such as a hospital) founded by such a gift
4 : lenient judgment of others
  • The critic was liked for his charity and moderation.

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.

Recent Examples of charity from the Web

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

Origin and Etymology 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

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

CHARITY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of charity for English Language Learners

  • : 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

CHARITY Defined for Kids


noun char·i·ty \ ˈcher-ə-tē \

Definition of charity for Students

plural charities
1 : love for others
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 : the giving of aid to the needy
4 : aid (as food or money) given to those in need
5 : an organization or fund for helping the needy

Law Dictionary


noun char·i·ty

legal Definition of charity

plural charities
: 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
Note: 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.

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