le·​nien·​cy ˈlē-nē-ən(t)-sē How to pronounce leniency (audio)
plural leniencies
: the quality or state of being lenient
the leniency of the punishment
: a lenient disposition or practice
The prisoner asked the judge for leniency.
Choose the Right Synonym for leniency

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 leniency in a Sentence

the defense requested leniency in light of their client's lack of a prior criminal record
Recent Examples on the Web Not only due to the porous nature of borders but also because of, as Resendiz highlights, the leniency of distribution rights and the increasing accessibility of streaming services. Allison Argueta-Claros, Los Angeles Times, 27 Sep. 2023 Kutcher and Kunis apologized after their own letters to the judge seeking leniency for Masterson became public and spurred criticism. Andrew Dalton, Chicago Tribune, 19 Sep. 2023 Nearly a week ago, Kutcher and Kunis published a joint video apology to their Instagram after their character references requesting sentencing leniency for Masterson — who is facing a minimum of 30 years in prison after being found guilty of two counts of rape — were publicized. Abbey White, The Hollywood Reporter, 15 Sep. 2023 Kutcher and Kunis were among nearly 50 of Masterson's colleagues, relatives and friends who wrote letters on his behalf asking for leniency in his sentencing. Simrin Singh, CBS News, 9 Sep. 2023 Kutcher and Kunis were among the high-profile Hollywood personalities whose letters of support were included in a 108-page filing seeking leniency in Masterson’s sentencing. Tracy Brown Los Angeles Times (tns), al, 9 Sep. 2023 The early pleas and the favorable punishment -- probation rather than prison -- could foreshadow similar outcomes for additional defendants who may see an admission of guilt and cooperation as their best hope for leniency. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 25 Oct. 2023 Brown consecrated the Stanton native as Orange County’s second Latino auxiliary bishop in 2000 even though Soto had pleaded for leniency in the 1986 case of Andrew Christian Andersen, who faced at least 56 years in prison for molesting altar boys in Huntington Beach. Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times, 18 Oct. 2023 Both Kutcher and his wife Mila Kunis, who also starred on the popular sitcom, were among dozens of colleagues, relatives and friends who wrote letters of support to a Los Angeles County judge ahead of Masterson's sentencing hearing last week asking for leniency. CBS News, 16 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1753, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of leniency was in 1753

Dictionary Entries Near leniency

Cite this Entry

“Leniency.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/leniency. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


le·​nien·​cy ˈlē-nē-ən-sē How to pronounce leniency (audio)
: the quality or state of being lenient

More from Merriam-Webster on leniency

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