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 Yellow Rooster has had to be lenient with its contracts with different shops since some have had to temporarily close and all of them have lost some of their business. al, "Coffee shops create sense of ‘normalcy’ amidst coronavirus shutdown," 22 Apr. 2020 Banks have been instructed to be lenient with loan defaults too. Eamon Barrett, Fortune, "China’s next coronavirus crisis: What happens after a country closes its economy," 20 Apr. 2020 Barr and other senior Justice Department officials overrode the recommendation the following day and asked the judge for a more lenient sentence. Eric Heisig, cleveland, "Here’s the former DOJ employees from Ohio who signed letter demanding Attorney General Bill Barr’s resignation," 17 Feb. 2020 Justice Department officials intervened to ask for a more lenient sentence for Stone on Tuesday, and the prosecutors all withdrew from the case. Grace Segers, CBS News, "Democratic senators call on William Barr to resign," 14 Feb. 2020 In recent years, the NCAA has been more lenient on claims for instant eligibility. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Jim Harbaugh reiterates support for one-time transfer exemption," 24 Apr. 2020 Productive power, however, depends on physical and moral efficiency, and war statistics have shown that the ordinary Briton falls lamentably short of even a lenient standard of physical fitness. The Economist, "From the archives The Economics of Health (1918)," 18 Apr. 2020 Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has been the organization's leader since 2017 and has been widely criticized for being too lenient on China for reportedly covering up the dangers of the virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan. Dominick Mastrangelo, Washington Examiner, "'He needs to go': Scalise demands WHO remove its director-general for botched coronavirus response," 16 Apr. 2020 Abbott said cities and counties could enact stricter orders, but cannot be more lenient than the state. Taylor Goldenstein, ExpressNews.com, "Golf, CBD, pet grooming: State weighs whether 3,000 Texas businesses are ‘essential’," 15 Apr. 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

26 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Lenient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient. Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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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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Britannica English: Translation of lenient for Arabic Speakers

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