lenient

adjective
le·nient | \ˈlē-nē-ənt, -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

What’s the point of making her wait?’ mom says Which state laws are the most lenient for child brides? Eric Adler, kansascity, "Missouri seeks to toughen child bride law — but still let 15-year-olds marry | The Kansas City Star," 23 Mar. 2018 Is the current 20-hour work requirement in the food stamp program, or SNAP, appropriate, too harsh or too lenient? Stephen Koff, cleveland.com, "Melissa Ackison, U.S. Senate candidate," 22 Mar. 2018 Support from one of the states with the most-lenient rules for incorporation is expected to give fresh energy to a nationwide effort behind identifying the true owners of companies. Samuel Rubenfeld, WSJ, "Delaware Backs Overhaul of Shell-Company Rules," 25 June 2018 The rail service, which provides 62 million trips a year, is likely to struggle to have PTC active on the 326 route miles required to have the system even with those more lenient marks, though. Jason Laughlin, Philly.com, "After Philly crash, railroads got more time to install a key safety system. Three years later, some still lag behind," 3 July 2018 But the bill was controversial, with critics noting that the Food and Drug Administration already had a swift and lenient pathway for such patients to obtain experimental drugs. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Under “right-to-try” law, therapy may go for $300K—with no proof it will work," 22 June 2018 More lenient states like Kentucky have no such rules. The Courier-Journal, "Danger in the cage: Lax regulation in amateur MMA puts lives at risk," 21 June 2018 The law gets more lenient when there is heavy traffic. Detroit Free Press, "Driving too slow could get you pulled over in Michigan," 19 June 2018 Was the embattled judge too lenient toward athletes? Gabriel Baumgaertner, SI.com, "Brock Turner, the 'Athlete Bias,' and the Movement That Produced the Recall of Judge Aaron Persky," 6 June 2018

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

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Last Updated

14 Oct 2018

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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, 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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More from Merriam-Webster on lenient

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Nglish: Translation of lenient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lenient for Arabic Speakers

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