char·​i·​ty | \ ˈcher-ə-tē How to pronounce charity (audio) , 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 Why did Tolstoy, proponent of Christian charity and chastity, so mistreat his wife and so endlessly get her pregnant? Lisa Zeidner, Star Tribune, "Review: 'A Swim in a Pond in the Rain,' by George Saunders," 8 Feb. 2021 Studies have found that choir members are more likely than the general population to vote, donate to charity and volunteer. Richard Read Seattle Bureau Chief, Los Angeles Times, "A baritone finds a safe way choirs can sing together again: over car radios," 30 Dec. 2020 Known for serving the poor, Saint Stephen is traditionally celebrated with charity and the distribution of alms. Erin Blakemore, History & Culture, "Why historians disagree about the origins of Boxing Day, the post-Christmas British holiday," 21 Dec. 2020 Until this past week, the food drive, run by the Society of St. Andrew, an anti-hunger charity, and the Unite Here Local 737 union, had distributed $155,805 worth of Farmers to Families food boxes every Saturday. Washington Post, "A $4.5 billion Trump food program is running out of money early, leaving families hungry and food assistance charities scrambling," 8 Dec. 2020 In 1999 he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for his services to charity and road safety., "Dave Prowse, Actor Who Played Darth Vader, Dies at 85," 29 Nov. 2020 And after the shopping spree comes Giving Tuesday -- a day to do good through charity and other ways. CNN, "Start your week smart: Pennsylvania, Covid-19, NFL, Zappos, Cyber Monday," 29 Nov. 2020 The three jumped on Zoom for the table read in the name of charity (and our nostalgia), and were joined by fellow A-listers Dane Cook, Jimmy Kimmel, Morgan Freeman, Henry Golding, John Legend, Shia LaBeouf, Sean Penn, and Julia Roberts. Natalie Morin,, "Matthew McConaughey On The “Sexual Tension” Between Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston," 30 Oct. 2020 Historians believe the points represented the seven deadly sins; breaking the thing symbolized charity and salvation. Jennifer Barger, National Geographic, "These paper crafts bring the party on Day of the Dead," 19 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for charity

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for charity

Last Updated

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Charity.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce charity (audio) \
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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