mer·cy | \ˈmər-sē \
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

If Mr Greitens were facing federal impeachment, with senators rather than judges in charge of the trial, he would be shown no mercy. The Economist, "Missouri’s governor is likely to be impeached," 17 May 2018 God of War shows no mercy when introducing a new type of enemy. Lisa Eadicicco, Time, "Review: The New ‘God of War’ Game Is Different, Bold and Demands Your Attention," 18 Apr. 2018 Ronda Rousey shows no mercy against Stephanie McMahon in her WWE in-ring debut: WrestleMania 34 20. Gene Guillot,, "The best 34 parts of an awesome WrestleMania week," 12 Apr. 2018 In the series, Zabka's Johnny Lawrence re-opens the Cobra Kai dojo, where the motto is to strike first, strike hard and show no mercy. Joey Morona,, "'Karate Kid' sequel series 'Cobra Kai' to be shown in theaters for one night only," 22 Mar. 2018 With little legal protection, undocumented workers in Thailand can be at the mercy of human traffickers or unscrupulous employers. Hannah Beech, New York Times, "Stateless and Poor, Some Boys in Thai Cave Had Already Beaten Long Odds," 10 July 2018 But many end up homeless or at the mercy of criminals. Aritz Parra, Fox News, "Spain feels the heat as migrants shift route into Europe," 29 June 2018 Here the words, in Latin, ask God to have mercy, warn of God’s anger, speak of the grief that will attend the Last Judgment: Who can choreograph that? Alastair Macaulay, New York Times, "Review: At BalletX, a New Work Alive With Suspense and Surrealism," 13 July 2018 At the same time, Burton is utterly commanding in the role — interpreting the playwright’s language eloquently, and bringing forth fire and fury that set in bold relief Prospera’s affecting turn toward mercy and forgiveness near play’s end. James Hebert,, "'Tempest' a satisfying whirl of wit and wizardry at Old Globe," 24 June 2018

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

14 Oct 2018

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 \
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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Comments on mercy

What made you want to look up mercy? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


evasion of direct action or statement

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