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 None of the four current board members expressed any concerns about the airport’s decision to be lenient. Jason Garcia, orlandosentinel.com, "Prominent lobbyist didn’t disclose calls to Orlando airport board members, violating policy," 14 Oct. 2020 Democrats and civil rights organizations believe the company is too lenient with its rules, and doesn’t do enough to fight hate speech and disinformation on the service. Tribune News Service, cleveland, "Facebook approached FBI about Michigan militia six months ago," 9 Oct. 2020 Despite these significant problems, the White House has relied on this testing to control spread and been lenient on more robust health measures, such as physical distancing and mask-wearing. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Trump’s doctor dodges questions, suggests president tested positive Wednesday," 3 Oct. 2020 Opponents argue that the legislation would overload the system and force prosecutors to be too lenient in offers of plea agreements in order to keep up with caseloads. Washington Post, "A jury sentenced him to 74 years in prison. Some now say it wasn’t their choice.," 27 Sep. 2020 In court on last week, Judge Richard Berman questioned why Hadden had been given such a lenient plea deal in 2016, after spending nearly two decades — between 1993 and 2002 — allegedly abusing his patients. Elly Belle, refinery29.com, "This Gynaecologist Abused Patients For Two Decades — & He Avoided Jail Time Until Now," 20 Sep. 2020 The lenient court ruling in Romina’s case was widely denounced as a case study in women’s inequality and the diminished value of girls. Scott Peterson, The Christian Science Monitor, "In Iran, outrage over patriarchy spurs change," 28 Sep. 2020 This water is regulated, but those regulations date from the 1980s and thus are relatively lenient and don't necessarily reflect the technology currently in use. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "EPA issues new rules on coal plant pollution," 1 Sep. 2020 Her landlord has been lenient, but the bills for utilities, insurance and even city permits keep coming. Ian Mcnulty | Staff Writer, NOLA.com, "For closed New Orleans neighborhood bars, the question isn't when they'll reopen. It's if they can.," 20 Aug. 2020

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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Time Traveler for lenient

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The first known use of lenient was in 1652

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Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lenient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient. Accessed 24 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for lenient


How to pronounce lenient (audio)

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


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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