char·​i·​ty ˈcher-ə-tē How to pronounce charity (audio)
plural charities
: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering
also : aid given to those in need
received charity from the neighbors
: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
raised funds for several charities
: public provision for the relief of the needy
too proud to accept charity
: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
The holidays are a time for charity and goodwill.
: a gift for public benevolent purposes
: an institution (such as a hospital) founded by such a gift
: lenient judgment of others
The critic was liked for his charity and moderation.
Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of charity in a Sentence

The holidays are a time for charity and good will. She refused to accept charity. The dinner was held to raise funds for several charities. She runs a local charity that gives books to children. All the money will go to charity.
Recent Examples on the Web Donating to charity, offering free products or services to people in need, or volunteering in the community are all great ways to humanize your brand. Cathleen Anthony, Forbes, 16 Feb. 2024 The Country Friends, a nonprofit based in Rancho Santa Fe, is giving $258,000 in grants to 39 San Diego area charities. Linda McIntosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 14 Feb. 2024 The couple plans on using their winnings to take a trip to Paris, pay bills and donate to charity, lottery officials said. Mike Stunson, Kansas City Star, 14 Feb. 2024 Fifty percent of the filmmakers’ net proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to animal charities. Caroline Brew, Variety, 13 Feb. 2024 The egg was first discovered in 2010 alongside three others in Aylesbury, England – about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of London – during an excavation conducted by charity Oxford Archaeology, Edward Biddulph, senior project manager at Oxford Archaeology, told CNN Monday. Issy Ronald, CNN, 12 Feb. 2024 In Khan Younis, Israeli forces opened fire at Nasser Hospital, the area's largest, killing at least two people and wounding five, according to the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. Najib Jobain,, 11 Feb. 2024 The charity works with hospitals to create a supportive environment for families during challenging times. Maeghan Dolph, Fox News, 10 Feb. 2024 Two days later, the royal family’s social media team posted a graphic in partnership with the U.K. charity Macmillan Cancer Support to highlight resources for cancer information and support. Simon Perry, Peoplemag, 9 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'charity.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of charity was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near charity

Cite this Entry

“Charity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


char·​i·​ty ˈchar-ət-ē How to pronounce charity (audio)
plural charities
: love for others
: kindliness in judging others
: the giving of aid to the poor and suffering
: public aid for the poor
: an institution or fund for aiding the needy

Legal Definition


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.

More from Merriam-Webster on charity

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