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

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 But standards got more lenient over time; public charge accounted for only 4 percent of denials in the 1940s and less than 1 percent after 1950. Dara Lind, Vox, "Trump is proposing a regulation that could change the face of legal immigration — by restricting low-income immigrants," 24 Sep. 2018 At every turn, Pruitt has shifted the agency in the direction of being more friendly and lenient for those being regulated. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "As a bruising week ends, EPA’s Pruitt hangs on to support from a wary White House," 6 Apr. 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, BostonGlobe.com, "Michael Flynn is cooperating with Mueller and eager to have case wrap up, court hears," 11 July 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. Spencer S. Hsu And Rosalind S. Helderman, chicagotribune.com, "Ex-Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn expected back in court for first time since guilty plea," 10 July 2018 Related Violating drone-operating rules in the U.K. can incur hefty fines and a prison sentence of up to five years, though penalties are typically more lenient. Robert Wall, WSJ, "U.K. Police Detain Two Over Drone Activity at London’s Gatwick Airport," 22 Dec. 2018 Judges in the same court have recently approved plea deals that offered similarly lenient sentences to two men. Jennifer Wright, Harper's BAZAAR, "Cyntoia Brown Proves Women “With a Past” Have No Future," 12 Dec. 2018 The relatively lenient sentences appeared to be part of an effort by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to soften its image as an authoritarian regime. Sopheng Cheang, The Seattle Times, "Cambodian court gives suspended sentences to labor leaders," 11 Dec. 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

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lenience

leniency

lenient

lenify

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Leningrader

Statistics for lenient

Last Updated

18 Mar 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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Britannica English: Translation of lenient for Arabic Speakers

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