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 His obituaries in the mainstream press were mostly judgment, no mercy. Peggy Noonan, WSJ, "Rush Limbaugh’s Complicated Legacy," 18 Feb. 2021 That tended to leave the town and its residents at the company’s mercy, one local politician says. Will Coviello,, "'Museum Town' looks at MASS MoCA's effort to bring contemporary art to a small town," 28 Dec. 2020 Father Thomas Alatzakis, who will become the spiritual leader of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Waukegan Jan. 1 and is currently with a congregation in East Moline, said his Christmas message is about peace, hope, love and mercy. Steve Sadin,, "Faith leaders offer messages to guide congregations beyond year of illness, unrest, hardship, divisiveness," 24 Dec. 2020 Throughout the South at the time, most Black farmers lived at the economic mercy of landowners who were employers, landlords and vendors all at once. Akilah Johnson, ProPublica, "How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young Black Men," 22 Dec. 2020 Yet, this analogy with divine mercy for all individuals collides with the legal principle of treating different cases differently. Scott Davidson, The Conversation, "Pardon me? An ethicist’s guide to what is proper when it comes to presidential pardons," 14 Dec. 2020 New York has traditionally shown little mercy on the issue. Stephen Gandel, CBS News, "How the pandemic is complicating taxes for millions of Americans," 8 Dec. 2020 That Lolita’s baby daughter is stillborn removes the possibility of another nymphet entering the world and running afoul of a future Humbert or similar fiend—a minor mercy granted by the author to his hard-luck characters. Ian Frazier, The New Yorker, "Nabokov, Steinberg, and Me," 7 Dec. 2020 Jean knows nothing of her husband’s business, which is both a mercy and a liability, and her ignorance persists even when his latest gambit goes terribly wrong. Justin Chang Film Critic, Los Angeles Times, "Review: ‘I’m Your Woman,’ with Rachel Brosnahan, puts a vivid new spin on the ’70s crime thriller," 4 Dec. 2020

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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Time Traveler for mercy

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for mercy

Last Updated

26 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Mercy.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Feb. 2021.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for mercy

Nglish: Translation of mercy for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of mercy for Arabic Speakers

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