le·​nient | \ ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio) , -nyənt \

Definition of lenient

1 : of mild and tolerant disposition or effect : not harsh, severe, or strict lenient laws a lenient attitude
2 : exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress

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Other Words from lenient

leniently adverb

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Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of lenient referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by lenitive, an earlier derivative of lenire that was commonly used with electuary (a "lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in toe is fortis.

Examples of lenient in a Sentence

By giving one more person—the executive—the power to reduce (but not to increase) punishments, our constitutions (both Federal and state) seem to be sending an important message: that in a world in which errors are inevitable, it is better to err on the side of overly lenient, rather than overly harsh, punishment. — Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review, 16 July 1989 He could trust himself, he said … to be more lenient than perhaps his father had been to himself; his danger, he said … would be rather in the direction of being too indulgent … — Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903 But in other points, as well as this, I was growing very lenient to my master: I was forgetting all his faults, for which I had once kept a sharp look-out. — Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, 1847 a teacher who is lenient with students who have misbehaved Many people felt that the punishment was too lenient.
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Recent Examples on the Web The Justice Department could seek a more lenient prison sentence for Greenberg based on the extent of his cooperation. David Shortell, CNN, 18 Oct. 2021 Students are required to be vaccinated, but the school has been lenient with those opposed to getting the shots. orlandosentinel.com, 16 Sep. 2021 There will be a lot of variations in hybrid models, with some companies choosing to favor in-person work for the majority of the week of month and others being more lenient with remote work. Ashira Prossack, Forbes, 12 Apr. 2021 Many Africans in Guangzhou, however, report the city's Public Security Bureau has been lenient with visas for those with Chinese partners and children during the pandemic. Jenni Marsh, CNN, 17 Mar. 2021 The return of leading scorer James Bouknight is a promising sign for UConn but the selection committee can only be so lenient with taking injuries into account. Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY, 21 Feb. 2021 But the state lacked the ability to perform THC quantification tests, leading Katz to ask state’s attorneys to try to delay marijuana trials as much as possible, seek more lenient pleas, or even dismiss charges in some cases, if need be. James Whitlow, baltimoresun.com, 19 Aug. 2021 Aiming for more lenient treatment for themselves, banks scoured their internal records for evidence of their own employees’ misconduct. Dave Michaels, WSJ, 5 July 2021 New York state senators accused Gov. Andrew Cuomo of covering up the true number of deaths due to COVID-19 in nursing homes in 2020 with the goal of waiting for more lenient treatment under the Biden administration. Cassidy Morrison, Washington Examiner, 12 Feb. 2021

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

1652, in the meaning defined at sense 2

History and Etymology for lenient

Latin lenient-, leniens, present participle of lenire to soften, soothe, from lenis soft, mild; probably akin to Lithuanian lėnas tranquil — more at let entry 1

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The first known use of lenient was in 1652

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Last Updated

22 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lenient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lenient. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of lenient

: allowing a lot of freedom and not punishing bad behavior in a strong way : not harsh, severe, or strict


le·​nient | \ ˈlē-nē-ənt How to pronounce lenient (audio) , ˈlēn-yənt \

Kids Definition of lenient

: being kind and patient : not strict a lenient teacher

Other Words from lenient

leniently adverb


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