mer·​it | \ ˈmer-ət How to pronounce merit (audio) , 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 \ ˈmer-​ət-​ləs How to pronounce meritless (audio) , ˈme-​rət-​ \ 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

French’s observation that Trump may have been trolling the Squad to score political gains by keeping the group at odds with Pelosi probably gives the president more strategic heft than he merits. Timothy L. O'brien, The Denver Post, "O’Brien: Trump’s “go back” tweets leave no room for doubt," 15 July 2019 The following year, without ruling on the merits of any of the investigations, the Supreme Court acknowledged that the statute of limitations on all of García’s pending charges had expired. Daniel Alarcón, The New Yorker, "What Led Peru’s Former President to Take His Own Life?," 1 July 2019 On the merits, no individual vote should be disqualifying. Jennifer Epstein, Fortune, "Why Joe Biden’s Decades in the Senate Could Hurt His 2020 Presidential Bid," 23 June 2019 Law enforcement investigated these claims more than 15 years ago and determined them to be without merit. Natalie Stone,, "Ashton Kutcher Announces That Netflix's The Ranch 'Is Coming to an End' in 2020," 4 June 2019 Donald Trump's successful grift to capture the United States presidency from his golden toilet of a throne has suddenly revealed the 1 percent's rotten core, even to those who still believed that the American Dream was ever truly merit-based. Bridget Read, Vogue, "Black Monday on Showtime: Maybe Wall Street Isn't Funny Anymore," 21 Jan. 2019 The United States Open Golf Championship is strictly merit-based. Paul Daugherty,, "Paul Daugherty: Mariemont grad Will Grimmer all grown up for this U.S. Open," 13 June 2018 The records released to The Courant include an internal affairs investigation of a 2009 civilian complaint, but a lieutenant determined the complaint had no merit. Shawn R. Beals, Courant Community, "Middletown Sergeant Out On Paid Leave, Police Conducting Internal Investigation," 9 June 2018 In their world, the president is presented not just as the least-worst political option whose merits outweigh his flaws, but as a man assigned by God to restore America to its divinely set course, and therefore almost above human criticism. The Economist, "When American evangelicals fall out," 5 July 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Around this time, Mr. Bartholomew also met Chudd, of Imperial Records, who, Coleman said, asked him to find people whose talents merited recording. John Pope,, "Dave Bartholomew, New Orleans composer who helped create rock ‘n’ roll, dies at 100," 23 June 2019 The question before the justices: Can a judge, rather than a jury, decide what facts merit a new sentence? Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court rules for sex offender in child pornography case testing power of judges, juries," 19 June 2019 The ordinance was enacted in 1967 following violent riots that year against British colonial rule, and penalizes a number of offences related to unlawful assembly, with rioting and damage caused while rioting meriting the most severe punishments. Isabella Steger, Quartz, "The problem with calling Hong Kong’s protests a riot goes back to a colonial-era law," 16 June 2019 With the final game of the NBA season in the books, speculation season has headed into overdrive, careening to the point where Dion Waiters-to-the-Warriors has merited ESPN speculation. Ira Winderman,, "ESPN links Heat’s Dion Waiters as trade option for Warriors’ voids," 15 June 2019 Michael Friess, whose unparalleled coaching success at UAA filled the school’s trophy cases and merited 49 coach-of-the-year awards in track and cross country, is retiring after 29 years. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "After 29 years and 178 All-Americans, UAA running coach Michael Friess calls it a career," 4 June 2019 All three players provided correct responses, and Boettcher ended up with $46,801—not quite a Holzhauer-esque score, but enough for a commanding victory (and one that merited a high five from Holzhauer). Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic, "How James Holzhauer Finally Lost," 3 June 2019 Late in the play, someone notes that the death of one of the last family members merits a mere three-minute silence. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "On Stage, a Capitalist Morality Tale With Questions for Today," 19 Oct. 2018 But the clothes, Mr. Lauren at his Americana finest, merited attention, too. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "At a Celeb-Filled 50th Anniversary Show, Ralph Lauren Was Back on Top, Doubters Be Damned," 10 Sep. 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

Noun and Verb

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

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Statistics for merit

Last Updated

23 Jul 2019

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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
formal : 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 How to pronounce merit (audio) \

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 How to pronounce merit (audio) \

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

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


something desired as essential

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