noun mer·cy \ ˈmər-sē \
|Updated on: 19 Aug 2018

Definition of mercy

plural mercies
1 a : compassion or forbearance (see forbearance 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
2 a : 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

Examples of mercy in a Sentence

  1. He is a vicious criminal who deserves no mercy.

  2. She fell to her knees and asked for mercy.

  3. They came on a mission of mercy to provide food and medical care for starving children.

  4. It's a mercy that the building was empty when the fire started.

  5. Thank heaven for small mercies.

Recent Examples of mercy from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of mercy

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

MERCY Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of mercy for English Language Learners

  • : 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

MERCY Defined for Kids


noun mer·cy \ ˈmər-sē \

Definition of mercy for Students

plural mercies
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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very hard to disturb or upset

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