1 of 2


mer·​ce·​nary ˈmər-sə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio)
plural mercenaries
: one that serves merely for wages
especially : a soldier hired into foreign service
mercenaries who guaranteed the success of the rebellion B. F. Reilly


2 of 2


: serving merely for pay or sordid advantage : venal
also : greedy
: hired for service in the army of a foreign country
mercenarily adverb
mercenariness 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
Technically Shaw is a mercenary, but not a cynical or hard-hearted one. Tom Gliatto, Peoplemag, 11 Feb. 2024 Instead, the juntas turned to Russia and Russian mercenaries to help bolster security, even as violence increased sharply in the region. Rachel Chason, Washington Post, 28 Jan. 2024 But that alliance didn't keep it from being razed by papal mercenaries, and by 1400, the monastery was all but abandoned. Elizabeth Heath, Travel + Leisure, 25 Jan. 2024 The United States is also concerned about General Hamdan’s ties to Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, who supplied him with antiaircraft missiles in the early months of the war. Declan Walsh, New York Times, 19 Jan. 2024 But when a Middle Eastern tycoon dispatches international mercenaries to kidnap the zoo’s baby pandas, Chan, playing a version of himself as an international action star, is forced to get involved in a rescue mission. Patrick Brzeski, The Hollywood Reporter, 28 Oct. 2023 In other wildly edited photos, Mickey Mouse applauds Deadpool as the comic-book mercenary raises a bag of money and another shows Jaleel White‘s Urkel striking a pose next to Wolverine. Alexandra Del Rosario, Los Angeles Times, 8 Dec. 2023 Cortés and his men are rough mercenaries who rape, plunder and murder without compunction. Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Los Angeles Times, 2 Jan. 2024 Six million have died, and more than six million are displaced after decades of fighting and the ensuing humanitarian crisis in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, drawing in neighbors, mercenaries and militias. Declan Walsh Arlette Bashizi, New York Times, 17 Dec. 2023
Last summer, the swift and demonstrative downing of a jet carrying Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary commander who led a mutiny against Russia’s military leadership, sent a chilling signal to any opponents of the Kremlin’s current course. Catherine Belton, Washington Post, 17 Feb. 2024 By the time the Russians took Bakhmut, their forces were exhausted, and the Wagner mercenary group that led the fight was in open rebellion against the Russian ministry of defense. Josh Holder, New York Times, 17 Feb. 2024 Yevgeny Prigozhin Yevgeny Prigozhin, the bombastic mercenary boss – once one of the country’s most powerful oligarchs and a member of Putin’s trusted inner circle, died in 2023. Lauren Said-Moorhouse, CNN, 16 Feb. 2024 The practice of amplifying these independent voices by paying for coverage can be seen as deceitful, dishonest, and mercenary by readers who aren’t aware of the bigger picture. Christopher Null, WIRED, 7 Feb. 2024 The mercenary army chief was headed home to St. Petersburg with nine others onboard. Alan Cullison, WSJ, 22 Dec. 2023 Meanwhile, in August, Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and several of his top lieutenants died when their jet crashed halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Michael Dorgan, Fox News, 28 Dec. 2023 Prigozhin blast details Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that hand grenade fragments were found in the bodies of people who died in the Aug. 23 crash of mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane. Compiled By Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, Arkansas Online, 6 Oct. 2023 But Glazer is more interested in Nazi-ism as a mercenary act. Jada Yuan, Washington Post, 18 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Noun and Adjective

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

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near mercenary

Cite this Entry

“Mercenary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
mer·​ce·​nary ˈmərs-ᵊn-ˌer-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio)
plural mercenaries
: one that serves only for wages
especially : a soldier hired by a foreign country to fight in its army


2 of 2 adjective
: serving only for the pay or reward
mercenary armies
mercenary soldier
: greedy for money
mercenary business owners

More from Merriam-Webster on mercenary

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