mer·​cy | \ ˈmər-sē How to pronounce mercy (audio) \
plural mercies

Definition of mercy

1a : compassion or forbearance (see forbearance sense 1) shown especially to an offender or to one subject to one's power also : lenient or compassionate treatment begged for mercy
b : imprisonment rather than death imposed as penalty for first-degree murder
2a : a blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion May God have mercy on us.
b : a fortunate circumstance it was a mercy they found her before she froze
3 : compassionate treatment of those in distress works of mercy among the poor
at the mercy of
: wholly in the power of : with no way to protect oneself against

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Other Words from mercy

mercy adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for mercy

mercy, charity, clemency, grace, leniency mean a disposition to show kindness or compassion. mercy implies compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it. threw himself on the mercy of the court charity stresses benevolence and goodwill shown in broad understanding and tolerance of others. show a little charity for the less fortunate clemency implies a mild or merciful disposition in one having the power or duty of punishing. the judge refused to show clemency grace implies a benign attitude and a willingness to grant favors or make concessions. by the grace of God leniency implies lack of severity in punishing. criticized the courts for excessive leniency

Examples of mercy in a Sentence

He is a vicious criminal who deserves no mercy. She fell to her knees and asked for mercy. They came on a mission of mercy to provide food and medical care for starving children. It's a mercy that the building was empty when the fire started. Thank heaven for small mercies.
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Recent Examples on the Web

Moreover, public defenders are entirely at the mercy of the state Legislature going forward. David Scharfenberg,, "Boston’s middle class is getting crushed — does anyone care?," 30 Aug. 2019 This stark distinction imbued Soviet-era literature with a gratifyingly Manichaean quality, and Western readers became enamored of the stories of books that had escaped to liberty while their authors remained at the mercy of the Soviet authorities. Sophie Pinkham, The New Republic, "Vasily Grossman’s Lost Epic," 27 Aug. 2019 Should Johnson deliver Brexit, the UK would be out in the cold and at the mercy of an unpredictable US President than might seem to be the case as Johnson bigs up his time with Trump at the G7. Nic Robertson, CNN, "Boris Johnson stakes future on Donald Trump after Brexit. The gamble may break Britain," 24 Aug. 2019 Their point of view is often at the mercy of an interloper who comes in and tells the story with his or her own interpretation. Jonny Auping, Longreads, "‘Victims Become This Object of Fascination… This Silent Symbol.’," 23 Aug. 2019 At least then Google’s at the mercy of facts, not Twitter supposition. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "Google shows off Stadia streaming games: Cyberpunk 2077, Mortal Kombat 11, and more," 19 Aug. 2019 There's no way to predict the workouts before they're announced, so the athletes are at the mercy of CrossFit Games director Dave Castro. Tess Demeyer, USA TODAY, "What does it take to survive the CrossFit Games? Two competitors share their tips, advice," 30 July 2019 Those problems often aren’t under the control of residents, who are at the mercy of absentee landlords and housing enforcers, Biehler said. Scott Dance,, "Baltimore has fewer rats than D.C., and other important facts about the city’s long history fighting rodents," 30 July 2019 Rights groups say those efforts have left migrants at the mercy of brutal armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers that lack adequate food and water. Fox News, "Libya’s coast guard recovers dozens of bodies of migrants; 'worst Mediterranean tragedy' this year," 27 July 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mercy.' 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 mercy

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for mercy

Middle English, from Anglo-French merci, from Medieval Latin merced-, merces, from Latin, price paid, wages, from merc-, merx merchandise

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Statistics for mercy

Last Updated

2 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for mercy

The first known use of mercy was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for mercy



English Language Learners Definition of mercy

: kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly
: kindness or help given to people who are in a very bad or desperate situation
: a good or lucky fact or situation


mer·​cy | \ ˈmər-sē How to pronounce mercy (audio) \
plural mercies

Kids Definition of mercy

1 : kind and forgiving treatment of someone (as a wrongdoer or an opponent) The prisoners were shown mercy.
2 : kindness or help given to an unfortunate person an act of mercy
3 : a kind sympathetic disposition : willingness to forgive, spare, or help “There is not a scrap of pity or mercy in your heart …”— Brian Jacques, Redwall
4 : a blessing as an act of divine love the mercies of God
5 : a fortunate happening It's a mercy that we arrived in time.
at the mercy of
: completely without protection from We're at the mercy of the weather.

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More from Merriam-Webster on mercy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mercy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercy

Spanish Central: Translation of mercy

Nglish: Translation of mercy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mercy for Arabic Speakers

Comments on mercy

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to make a temporary encampment

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