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 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 Footage of gun-toting Koreans on rooftops transposed with images of Black youth firebombing businesses with Molotov cocktails painted a picture of a conflict — with Black residents considered lawless and Korean merchants, mercenary. NBC News, 29 Apr. 2022 The latter transforms into Moon Knight, a mercenary for the Egyptian moon good of vengeance, Khonshu. Danielle Directo-meston, The Hollywood Reporter, 29 Mar. 2022 In the comics, Marc Spector is the son of a Chicago rabbi, a heavyweight boxer, an ex-Marine, and a mercenary. Eliana Dockterman, Time, 21 Mar. 2022 Isaac’s man under the Moon Knight mask is sometimes a shy Brit named Steven Grant, other times a lethal mercenary named Marc Spector. Washington Post, 9 Mar. 2022 Midway through the second episode of Disney+’s new Marvel series Moon Knight, mercenary Marc Spector has a heart-to-heart conversation with museum gift shop clerk Steven Grant. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 29 Mar. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Netflix began its movie-making journey with this wartime drama about a West African boy forced into mercenary fighting. Deanna Janes, Harper's BAZAAR, 16 May 2022 Marc saw her father's death and then saved Marlene from her own demise at the hands of his double-crossing mercenary team–but the outcome is different. Milan Polk, Men's Health, 4 May 2022 The Wagner Group sends mercenary forces, many former Russian military soldiers, to several African countries and other places including Ukraine and the Mideast. Baba Ahmed, ajc, 25 Apr. 2022 Wagner is the best-known of an array of Russian mercenary groups, which over the years have become more formalized, acting more like Western military contractors. New York Times, 25 Mar. 2022 Russian losses on battlefields in Ukraine have stalled its offensive and forced it to seek reinforcements from troops stationed in the Pacific and paying mercenary forces, according to the British Defense ministry. Joey Garrison, USA TODAY, 16 Mar. 2022 Members of the Wagner Group, a secretive Russian mercenary organization, also have neo-Nazi leanings and are now widely believed to be operating in Ukraine. Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2022 Last year the European Union imposed sanctions on the Russian mercenary organization the Wagner Group, which operates as a proxy for the Russian government and military. Peter Bergen, CNN, 4 Apr. 2022 And a Zoomed-in Kate McKinnon, as a blithely mercenary studio head, keeps working the diminishing returns of a running gag about the pandemic lives of the one percent: white-sand beaches, ski chalets, a yacht trip with Mel Gibson. Leah Greenblatt,, 1 Apr. 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

17 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Mercenary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 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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