mer·​ce·​nary | \ ˈmər-sə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio) , -ne-rē \
plural mercenaries

Definition of mercenary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: one that serves merely for wages especially : a soldier hired into foreign service mercenaries who guaranteed the success of the rebellion — B. F. Reilly



Definition of mercenary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : serving merely for pay or sordid advantage : venal also : greedy
2 : hired for service in the army of a foreign country

Other Words from mercenary


mercenarily \ ˌmər-​sə-​ˈner-​ə-​lē How to pronounce mercenary (audio) , -​ˈne-​rə-​ \ adverb
mercenariness \ ˈmər-​sə-​ˌner-​ē-​nəs How to pronounce mercenary (audio) , -​ˌne-​rē-​ \ noun

Examples of mercenary in a Sentence

Noun an army of foreign mercenaries Adjective His motives in choosing a career were purely mercenary. they were a mercenary couple, who defined themselves not by what they were but by what they owned
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For a quick run-down: Moon Knight is actually a former mercenary named Marc Spector. Milan Polk, Men's Health, 30 Mar. 2022 Rather than a defeat for Madrid, Mbappé’s decision has been cast as that of a mercenary and a traitor, a turncoat who gave his word to Pérez and then betrayed him. New York Times, 27 May 2022 Tommy Flanagan co-stars as a mercenary, Anthony, who now seeking to collect said bounty, while Catherine Davis portrays Caleb’s daughter, Hailey. Brent Lang, Variety, 17 May 2022 The publication also reported that the recordings indicated the Russian mercenary Wagner Group was involved in atrocities there. Arkansas Online, 9 Apr. 2022 The soldiers, a combination of infantry soldiers, paratroopers and troops associated with Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, set up headquarters in the town to prepare for the coming assault on Kyiv, said Ukraine’s military and Ukrainian officials. Thomas Grove, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2022 Thomas Rowlandson, Frederick George Byron and Isaac Cruikshank — used their pens to paint statesman Edmund Burke as a mere toady to monarchy, and radical activist Thomas Paine as an alcohol-sodden and destabilizing mercenary. San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Apr. 2022 The plot gets even weirder: Spector is linked with Egyptian god Khonshu and Grant has to share his body with the former mercenary and vigilante, who’s tasked with battling cult leader Arthur Harrow (played by Ethan Hawke). ELLE, 31 Mar. 2022 Spector is an American mercenary who was given superpowers after his life was saved by an Egyptian god. Felecia Wellington Radel, USA TODAY, 28 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The three — Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saaudun Brahim — had been captured while fighting for Ukraine and found guilty of working toward a violent overthrow of power, as well as of mercenary activities and terrorism. Mithil Aggarwal, NBC News, 18 June 2022 They men were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism. Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY, 10 June 2022 They were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism. Bernat Armangue And Yuras Karmanau, Anchorage Daily News, 9 June 2022 Soon, Russian Federation forces and fighters from Wagner and other mercenary groups helped tilt the war in Assad’s favor. Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, 30 May 2022 Wagner also trained a mercenary rebel group that, last year, killed the Chadian president Idriss Deby. Sandun Munasinghe, Time, 5 Apr. 2022 Even after all this, Donziger still might be required by Judge Kaplan to pay millions to Chevron to compensate the company for its mercenary army of lawyers. Morgan Simon, Forbes, 26 May 2022 The archetype of the mercenary corporate buyer has existed for decades. New York Times, 20 May 2022 Other treasures lie in wait for more mercenary scavengers, whose paths Mr. Kamysh and his companions cross from time to time. Benjamin Shull, WSJ, 20 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mercenary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mercenary


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for mercenary

Noun and Adjective

Middle English, from Latin mercenarius, irregular from merced-, merces wages — more at mercy

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Time Traveler for mercenary

Time Traveler

The first known use of mercenary was in the 14th century

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Statistics for mercenary

Last Updated

22 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mercenary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jul. 2022.

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More Definitions for mercenary


mer·​ce·​nary | \ ˈmər-sə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio) \
plural mercenaries

Kids Definition of mercenary

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a soldier paid by a foreign country to fight in its army



Kids Definition of mercenary (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : doing something only for the pay or reward
2 : greedy for money I may be mercenary, but I hate poverty …— Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

More from Merriam-Webster on mercenary

Nglish: Translation of mercenary for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mercenary for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about mercenary


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