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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The boy screams for mercy, praying to his god for forgiveness, Avi shoots him, but the viewer never sees it. Shannon Carlin,, "This Is What Avi’s Secret Actually Means On Messiah," 3 Jan. 2020 The Hornets also invoked the mercy rule 10 times in 2019, including nine of its 10 regular-season games and in the Class 7A semifinals against Bentonville West. Arkansas Online, "TOP 10 ARKANSAS SPORTS STORIES OF 2019: UA’s firing of high-profile coaches dominated news cycle," 26 Dec. 2019 Jon Collum’s 4-yard touchdown run and Hensley’s 2-point conversion run gave Pikeville a 36-0 lead at the 8:22 mark of the third quarter and started the mercy-rule running clock. Jason Frakes, The Courier-Journal, "Pikeville rolls past Paintsville for Kentucky Class A football state championship," 6 Dec. 2019 While there is no official mercy rule in OHSAA soccer, many Greater Cincinnati coaches took umbrage with the result. Scott Springer,, "Cincinnati soccer coaches react to 25-goal northern Ohio match: 'Absolute disgrace'," 2 Oct. 2019 Playing for Valley Farm Market, the trio defeated John’s Automotive in a one-inning, 12-1 mercy-rule victory on Fiesta Island. Don Norcross, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Valley Farm Market dedicates Over-The-Line championship to player’s ailing father," 21 July 2019 The game was stopped in the fifth inning by the mercy rule. Robert Avery, Houston Chronicle, "League City 13s open South Zone Tournament with 16-6 victory," 17 July 2019 Pickens, in short, pleads for mercy from Washington in his letter, while Livingston offers sundry particulars of what went awry. al, "Alabama’s mortifying miscount of 1820 Census; and the tally is still wrong," 28 Dec. 2019 When Ntizimira was hesitant to prescribe it, early in his career, a mother fell to her knees in front of him and pleaded for mercy for her son. CBS News, "Rwanda makes its own morphine while U.S. awash with opioids," 26 Dec. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about mercy

Time Traveler for mercy

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for mercy

Last Updated

18 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Mercy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for mercy


How to pronounce mercy (audio)

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on mercy

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercy

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with mercy

Spanish Central: Translation of mercy

Nglish: Translation of mercy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mercy for Arabic Speakers

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).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!