clem·​en·​cy ˈkle-mən(t)-sē How to pronounce clemency (audio)
plural clemencies
: disposition to be merciful and especially to moderate the severity of punishment due
The judge ignored the prisoner's pleas for clemency.
: an act or instance of leniency
The governor's clemencies saved the lives of many death-row prisoners.
: pleasant mildness of weather
The fair was a great success, owing to the clemency of the weather.
Choose the Right Synonym for clemency

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 clemency in a Sentence

The President has granted clemency to several people this month. the judge chose to show clemency to the truly repentant embezzler
Recent Examples on the Web Parson has not granted clemency on a death penalty case as governor. Katie Moore, Kansas City Star, 12 Feb. 2024 Anderson, in a letter to the parole board’s executive director, pleaded with the parole board not to grant clemency review for death row prisoners going forward. Kevin Fixler, Idaho Statesman, 10 Feb. 2024 But most prior governors barely used their clemency power at all. Mackenzie Mays, Los Angeles Times, 22 Dec. 2023 Parson also touted a focus on clearing up a backlog of clemency applications of people stuck in jail, which his administration inherited at 4,000 pending applications. Jonathan Shorman, Kansas City Star, 24 Jan. 2024 With three hours to go, his lawyers were still hoping that Oklahoma’s governor would grant him clemency, as the state parole board had voted to recommend three weeks earlier. Emma Goldberg Desiree Rios, New York Times, 21 Jan. 2024 His clemency application was supported by the prosecutor in the case and the judge who sentenced him. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 25 Dec. 2023 As a candidate, Biden vowed to broadly use the clemency powers of the presidency for nonviolent crimes. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports,, 23 Dec. 2023 Each of the clemency recipients would have been eligible for shorter sentencing under current laws, Mr. Biden said in a statement on Friday. Katie Rogers, New York Times, 22 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


see clement

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of clemency was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near clemency

Cite this Entry

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

Kids Definition


clem·​en·​cy ˈklem-ən-sē How to pronounce clemency (audio)
plural clemencies
: disposition to be merciful
: an act or instance of mercy

Legal Definition


clem·​en·​cy ˈkle-mən-sē How to pronounce clemency (audio)
plural clemencies
: willingness or ability to moderate the severity of a punishment (as a sentence)
: an act or instance of mercy, compassion, or forgiveness see also amnesty, commute, pardon, reprieve

More from Merriam-Webster on clemency

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