le·​nient ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio)
: of mild and tolerant disposition or effect : not harsh, severe, or strict
lenient laws
a lenient attitude
: exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress
leniently adverb

Did you know?

Lenient comes from lenis, the Latin word for "soft" or "mild." It was originally applied to something soothing that relieved pain or stress; the related lenitive has the same meaning. Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter.

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.
Recent Examples on the Web That 2021 settlement had been criticized for being too lenient on Boeing and for being struck without consulting the families of the 346 people killed in the Max crashes, which were in Indonesia and Ethiopia and led to the grounding of the 737 Max fleet for 20 months. Niraj Chokshi, New York Times, 30 May 2024 The arrests caught the attention of members of Congress, who sought lenient sentences for the Americans. Alex Sundby, CBS News, 28 May 2024 However, the judge has the discretion to issue a more lenient sentence if the court finds there are exceptional circumstances. Meredith Deliso, ABC News, 28 May 2024 Importantly, this is more lenient than Medicare coverage rules, which prohibit the coverage of drugs for obesity or weight loss altogether. Fran Kritz, Verywell Health, 17 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for lenient 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lenient.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1652, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of lenient was in 1652


Dictionary Entries Near lenient

Cite this Entry

“Lenient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient. Accessed 14 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


le·​nient ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio)
: being kind and patient
leniently adverb
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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