adjective le·nient \ ˈlē-nē-ənt , -nyənt \
|Updated on: 5 Aug 2018

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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Examples of lenient in a Sentence

  1. 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. DershowitzNew York Times Book Review16 July 1989
  2. 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 ButlerThe Way of All Flesh1903
  3. 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 BrontëJane Eyre1847
  4. a teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved

  5. Many people felt that the punishment was too lenient.

Recent Examples of lenient from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of lenient

Latin lenient-, leniens, present participle of lenire to soften, soothe, from lenis soft, mild; probably akin to Lithuanian lėnas tranquil — more at 1let

LENIENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of lenient for English Language Learners

  • : allowing a lot of freedom and not punishing bad behavior in a strong way : not harsh, severe, or strict

LENIENT Defined for Kids


adjective le·nient \ ˈlē-nē-ənt , ˈlēn-yənt \

Definition of lenient for Students

: being kind and patient : not strict
  • a lenient teacher



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excessive admiration or flattery

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