len·​i·​ty ˈle-nə-tē How to pronounce lenity (audio)
: the quality or state of being lenient : clemency

Examples of lenity in a Sentence

a social critic who argues that judicial lenity is chiefly to blame for the increased criminality that plagues us
Recent Examples on the Web Twelve judges sided with Cargill and concluded that the definition of machine gun was ambiguous enough to invoke a legal principle known as the rule of lenity, which requires courts to interpret unclear criminal laws in a way that's most favorable to the defendant. Melissa Quinn, CBS News, 28 Feb. 2024 The majority’s treatment of the rule of lenity also strikes a slightly sour note. The Insider, Forbes, 15 Apr. 2021 If the rule of lenity applies here, then Butler should not be charged with a hate crime. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate Magazine, 25 Apr. 2017

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

Word History

First Known Use

1548, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of lenity was in 1548

Dictionary Entries Near lenity

Cite this Entry

“Lenity.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenity. Accessed 18 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


len·​i·​ty ˈlen-ət-ē How to pronounce lenity (audio)
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