lenient

adjective
le·​nient | \ ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio) , -nyənt\

Definition of lenient

1 : of mild and tolerant disposition or effect : not harsh, severe, or strict lenient laws a lenient attitude
2 : exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress

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Other Words from lenient

leniently adverb

Did You Know?

Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of lenient referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by lenitive, an earlier derivative of lenire that was commonly used with electuary (a "lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in toe is fortis.

Examples of lenient in a Sentence

By giving one more person—the executive—the power to reduce (but not to increase) punishments, our constitutions (both Federal and state) seem to be sending an important message: that in a world in which errors are inevitable, it is better to err on the side of overly lenient, rather than overly harsh, punishment. — Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review, 16 July 1989 He could trust himself, he said … to be more lenient than perhaps his father had been to himself; his danger, he said … would be rather in the direction of being too indulgent … — Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903 But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out. — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847 a teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved Many people felt that the punishment was too lenient.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Investors hope that allowing the global raters to operate could help improve the quality of the local ratings industry, which has long been criticized for being overly lenient with debtors. Shen Hong, WSJ, "S&P Rating Is Landmark for Chinese Bond Market," 11 July 2019 And the scandal over the shoddy treatment of the Windrush generation of migrants, who came to Britain legally but struggled to prove it, demonstrated that being perceived as too harsh can be as politically toxic as appearing too lenient. The Economist, "Britons are warming to immigration. Will their next prime minister?," 11 July 2019 Georgian authorities have been notably lenient with pro-Russian activists like Levan Vasadze, who recently called for violence against LGBTQ demonstrators in Georgia’s first-ever Pride event. Ani Chkhikvadze, The New Republic, "Why Georgia Brings Out Putin’s Insecurities," 25 June 2019 Zils Gagne argued for one year of home confinement and appeared to expect a relatively lenient punishment as late at her sentencing hearing in April. Don Stacom, courant.com, "Former Bristol council member facing prison term claims her lawyer was ineffective," 21 June 2019 Moreover, even when an intimate attack ended in death, the law was sometimes lenient with a gay man’s killer. Caleb Crain, The New Yorker, "The Theory That Justified Anti-Gay Crime," 20 June 2019 The adoption of a lenient standard of proof could mean that this punishment, and this frustration of popular will, could occur even though substantial doubt of guilt remained. Linda Greenhouse, The New York Review of Books, "The Impeachment Question," 30 May 2019 Holden has been criticized in the past for being too lenient in his sentencing of men who commit crimes against children. Tiffany Diane Tso, refinery29.com, "Man Who Sexually Abused An 11-Year-Old Girl Gets 5 Years Probation," 20 June 2019 Different judges are more harsh or lenient in their sentencing, even within the same county courthouse. David J. Harding, Scientific American, "Do Prisons Make Us Safer?," 21 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lenient.' 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 lenient

1652, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for lenient

Latin lenient-, leniens, present participle of lenire to soften, soothe, from lenis soft, mild; probably akin to Lithuanian lėnas tranquil — more at let entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near lenient

Lengua

lenience

leniency

lenient

lenify

Lenin

Leningrader

Statistics for lenient

Last Updated

22 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for lenient

The first known use of lenient was in 1652

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More Definitions for lenient

lenient

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of lenient

: allowing a lot of freedom and not punishing bad behavior in a strong way : not harsh, severe, or strict

lenient

adjective
le·​nient | \ ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio) , ˈlēn-yənt\

Kids Definition of lenient

: being kind and patient : not strict a lenient teacher

Other Words from lenient

leniently adverb

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Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for lenient

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Britannica English: Translation of lenient for Arabic Speakers

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