Definition of lenient
- lenient laws
- a lenient attitude
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a teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved
Many people felt that the punishment was too lenient.
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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.
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