mer·​it | \ˈmer-ət, ˈme-rət\

Definition of merit 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a obsolete : reward or punishment due

b : the qualities or actions that constitute the basis of one's deserts Opinions of his merit vary.

c : a praiseworthy quality : virtue but originality, as it is one of the highest, is also one of the rarest, of merits— E. A. Poe

d : character or conduct deserving reward, honor, or esteem also : achievement composed a number of works of merit — H. E. Starr

2 : spiritual credit held to be earned by performance of righteous acts and to ensure future benefits the Crusades … did serve the desire to gain spiritual merit— Jacques Barzun

3a merits plural : the substance of a legal case apart from matters of jurisdiction, procedure, or form the plaintiff … is entitled to have its claim decided here on its merits— T. M. Maddes

b : individual significance or justification (see justification sense 1) the contention is without merit— E. B. Denny


merited; meriting; merits

Definition of merit (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to be worthy of or entitled or liable to : earn

intransitive verb

1 obsolete : to be entitled to reward or honor

2 : deserve

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Other Words from merit


meritless \-​ləs \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for merit

Synonyms: Noun

cardinal virtue, distinction, excellence, excellency, grace, value, virtue

Synonyms: Verb

deserve, earn, rate

Antonyms: Noun

deficiency, demerit, disvalue

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Examples of merit in a Sentence


She saw merit in both of the arguments. The study has no scientific merit.


Both ideas merit further consideration. These issues merit special attention. His good work merits a raise. She did well enough to merit a second interview. The attention she received was not merited.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Harvard study has a lot of merit in this regard. WSJ, "Different Choices Lead to Different Incomes," 29 Nov. 2018 He was given the Legion of Honour in France, the highest order of merit for the military, in addition to the Croix de Guerre. Maggie Maloney, Town & Country, "Prince Philip’s Cousin Was a Paratrooper Who Helped Liberate France From the Nazis," 20 Aug. 2018 While New York is unique in relying solely on one test, the long-simmering disagreements over definitions of merit, excellence, and equity resonate more broadly. Harry Bruinius, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Keep the test!' A debate flares over exam-based public high schools.," 6 July 2018 The Duxbury Rural and Historical Society has received an award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History for its Re-imagine Bradford project. Julia Preszler,, "Randolph schools help serve free summer meals," 28 June 2018 At the same time, the GOP had planned to block any nominations by Hillary Clinton, should Clinton have won the election, and McConnell’s argument wasn’t seen as having historical merit. Glenn Fleishman, Fortune, "McConnell Argues Against Confirming New Justice This Year (If It Were 2016)," 27 June 2018 Her career and relationships both appear to have stumbled and then succeeded through a combination of merit and luck. Afua Hirsch, Time, "What Meghan Markle Means to the World," 17 May 2018 Former employees have complained to me that this cycle tends to reward projects that can be completely quickly to juice the metric in question, impress the boss, and earn their bonus, whatever the intrinsic merits of the project in question. Casey Newton, The Verge, "A majority of Americans don’t think social networks are good for the world," 21 Nov. 2018 But the group's scientists worry that without a study, NASA will simply assume a lander isn't feasible — and in the process, shortchange the scientific merit of the smallest planet. Meghan Bartels,, "What Would It Take to Land on Mercury? It's Time to Find Out, Scientists Say," 30 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

With four more wins, the 2018 Red Sox would merit a mention among the greatest teams of all time. Brian Costa, WSJ, "Red Sox Concerns Fade as They Roll Into the World Series," 19 Oct. 2018 The baseline would be used to see if any abrupt spikes or dips in the biometric data merit a response from Walmart's staff. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "Walmart Files Patent For Carts That Track Your Heart Rate," 10 Oct. 2018 However, the majority of both groups thought the movies merited a higher minimum-viewer age. Rita Giordano,, "Gun violence at the movies is so bad, parents think the PG-13 rating isn't tough enough," 14 May 2018 Goldman’s ownership stake in the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. was profitable enough to merit its own line item in the firm’s financial reports for years—have mostly rolled off. Liz Hoffman, WSJ, "Goldman Changes Asia Banking Leadership as New CEO Digs In," 20 Oct. 2018 But still, those violations didn’t seem to merit a full ban. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "Twitter permanently suspends Infowars and Alex Jones," 6 Sep. 2018 This software is still in use today and has been effective enough to merit inclusion on NASA’s upcoming Mars 2020 rover. Jacek Krywko, Ars Technica, "To make Curiosity (et al) more curious, NASA and ESA smarten up AI in space," 16 July 2018 That, rightly, will merit a thorough investigation into Simmons’s past by NFL teams. Albert Breer,, "Who Are the Defensive Linemen Expected to Dominate the 2019 NFL Draft?," 12 July 2018 Whether those findings apply to sitting at a desk outdoors might merit further study. Rick Romell, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "L.L. Bean will bring freedom for the desk-bound to Madison with outdoor workspace," 6 July 2018

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1526, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for merit


Middle English, from Anglo-French merite, from Latin meritum, from neuter of meritus, past participle of merēre to deserve, earn; akin to Greek meiresthai to receive as one's portion, meros part


see merit entry 1

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Statistics for merit

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

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Time Traveler for merit

The first known use of merit was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for merit



English Language Learners Definition of merit

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a good quality or feature that deserves to be praised

: the quality of being good, important, or useful : value or worth



English Language Learners Definition of merit (Entry 2 of 2)

: to deserve (something, such as attention or good treatment) by being important or good


mer·​it | \ˈmer-ət \

Kids Definition of merit

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the condition or fact of deserving reward or punishment Students are graded according to merit.

2 : worth entry 2 sense 1, value “Your suggestion has merit,” he said.— Lloyd Alexander, Time Cat

3 : a quality worthy of praise : virtue the merit of honesty


merited; meriting

Kids Definition of merit (Entry 2 of 2)

: to be worthy of or have a right to Both ideas merit further consideration.


mer·​it | \ˈmer-ət \

Legal Definition of merit 

1  plural : the substance of a case apart from matters of jurisdiction, procedure, or form a ruling on the merits of the case — see also judgment on the merits at judgment sense 1a

2 : legal significance, standing, or worth an argument without merit

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More from Merriam-Webster on merit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with merit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for merit

Spanish Central: Translation of merit

Nglish: Translation of merit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of merit for Arabic Speakers

Comments on merit

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