char·​i·​ty | \ˈcher-ə-tē, ˈcha-rə-\
plural charities

Definition of charity 

1a : 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.

3a : 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.

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Do a first round of donations of unwanted goods to charity, sell items online, or have a garage sale to help pay for your move. Amanda Garrity, Good Housekeeping, "Follow This Weekly Moving Checklist for a Smooth, Stress-Free Transition," 5 Dec. 2018 Frazier said Givens did a lot of fundraising for charities, including the Assist the Officer Foundation. Kathleen Joyce, Fox News, "Dallas officer killed by suspected drunk driver while on funeral escort," 2 Oct. 2018 However, there are some big names—whether through charity, camaraderie, or just plain chance—who manage to do both. Vogue, "11 Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Friends With Royals," 8 Aug. 2018 Some of the proceeds go to the club’s holiday donation to area charities, such as Family Recovery Center, StandUp for Kids, Womens’ Resource Center, Carlsbad Christmas Bureau and Camp Pendleton YMCA. Linda Mcintosh,, "Woman of the Year awards given," 9 July 2018 The organization Givewell details what a select group of high-impact charities can do with donations as small as a few dollars. Linda Davis Taylor, SELF, "How to Use Money as an Extension of Your Political Voice," 6 Nov. 2018 Alongside her appearances at events, and her support of a number of charities, Eugenie is kept extremely busy. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Who Is Princess Eugenie? The Queen's Granddaughter Is Ninth in Line to the Throne," 12 Oct. 2018 Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex meet the cast after a gala performance of the musical Hamilton, in support of the charity Sentebale, at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London, Wednesday, Aug. 29 2018. Morgan M. Evans, Fox News, "Meghan Markle wears sexy mini dress to Lin-Manuel Miranda 'Hamilton' gala show with Prince Harry," 30 Aug. 2018 His acceptance of their relationship, his comfort with gay acquaintances in New York and his support of AIDS charities, including John’s, made Trump unusual among Republican presidential nominees. Amanda Svachula,, "What’s the deal with President Trump and Elton John?," 7 July 2018

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.

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First Known Use of charity

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for 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

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Statistics for charity

Last Updated

12 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for charity

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

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More Definitions for charity



English Language Learners Definition of charity

: 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


char·​i·​ty | \ˈcher-ə-tē \
plural charities

Kids Definition of charity

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


plural charities

Legal Definition of charity 

: 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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