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

Singer flipped on the parents and helped the FBI build the case against for a chance at a lenient sentence. Alanna Durkin Richer, The Seattle Times, "Test taker pleads guilty in college admissions bribery scam," 13 Apr. 2019 Lawyers expect European regulators to be lenient with companies that haven’t updated their contracts the day after a no-deal Brexit. Nina Trentmann, WSJ, "Companies Weigh Data-Privacy Risks Ahead of Brexit," 12 Mar. 2019 In fact, the state had lenient vaccine laws that allowed for philosophical exemptions prior to a 2014-15 measles outbreak in Anaheim, a city located in Orange County. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Opting out of vaccines leaves these US 'hot spots' most vulnerable for outbreaks," 13 June 2018 But conservatives are not arguing for civil liberties in the abstract, or promoting a generalized policy of more lenient treatment of criminal suspects. Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, "Giuliani’s FBI ‘Stormtroopers’ Smear Is the Key to Trump’s Authoritarian Mind-set," 3 May 2018 Facebook and Twitter have been under fire for allegedly censoring conservative and Republican accounts on their platforms, while taking a more lenient approach to liberal and left-wing users. Lukas Mikelionis, Fox News, "Trump threatens Google over alleged biased search results," 28 Aug. 2018 The pre-sentencing report is an investigation into whether a person’s background may warrant a harsher or more lenient sentence takes 70 to 90 days to prepare and is a necessary step in the federal system before sentencing. Washington Post, "Former national security adviser Michael Flynn is still cooperating with Mueller and eager to have case wrapped up, court hears," 10 July 2018 Karp got to work on his own book, wanting to document his techniques for calming crying while promoting a more lenient approach. Ruth Margalit, New York Times, "How Harvey Karp Turned Baby Sleep Into Big Business," 18 Apr. 2018 Rather than send Brock to prison for six years, as the prosecutor recommended in 2016, Persky opted for a lenient penalty: Six months in jail and three years of probation. Robin Abcarian, latimes.com, "The judge who gave a light sexual assault sentence to a Stanford swimmer now faces a reckoning with voters," 26 Jan. 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

Statistics for lenient

Last Updated

13 May 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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