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mer·​ce·​nary ˈmər-sə-ˌner-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio)
plural mercenaries
: one that serves merely for wages
especially : a soldier hired into foreign service
mercenaries who guaranteed the success of the rebellion B. F. Reilly


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: serving merely for pay or sordid advantage : venal
also : greedy
: hired for service in the army of a foreign country
mercenarily adverb
mercenariness noun

Example Sentences

Noun an army of foreign mercenaries Adjective His motives in choosing a career were purely mercenary. they were a mercenary couple, who defined themselves not by what they were but by what they owned
Recent Examples on the Web
The good news is that, by ending the season on Cassian enlisting in the Rebellion as a true believer rather than a mercenary, Andor has now largely moved past the the one part of the machine that wasn’t humming along at top efficiency. Alan Sepinwall, Rolling Stone, 23 Nov. 2022 The violence is often grotesque, as when a mercenary sees an adversary’s arm blasted off, then runs him over with a car; the victim is shown cowering with fear, pleading despite being unable to move. Daniel D'addario, Variety, 20 Oct. 2022 The first film introduced audiences to Hemsworth's Rake, a black-market mercenary with a heart of gold who fights just about every bad guy in Dhaka before taking a dive off that bridge. Keith Langston,, 24 Sep. 2022 The commander, was a mercenary from the Wagner paramilitary outfit. Kamila Hrabchuk, Washington Post, 5 Oct. 2022 Avik San who targets a CIA mercenary (Gosling) after the latter uncovers government secrets. Sakshi Venkatraman, NBC News, 15 July 2022 Ryan Reynolds plays Deadpool, who has the ability to heal from pretty much any injury—and is an angry, violent, wisecracking mercenary tasked with protecting a young mutant from a time-traveling soldier. WIRED, 23 Sep. 2022 Ilyas was kidnapped as a child by an African mercenary and eventually sent to a German mission school. Ron Charles, Washington Post, 23 Aug. 2022 As with the Marvel Comic history of Moon Knight, the main alter ego of the superhero is an American mercenary named Marc Spector. Evan Romano, Men's Health, 30 Mar. 2022
Arghandiwal said the recruiting is led by the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group. Bernard Condon, Fortune, 31 Oct. 2022 The Bakhmut offensive is being led by fighters from the Wagner mercenary group, and its founder, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, has been seeking a higher profile as the military effort has foundered. Marc Santora,, 28 Oct. 2022 Nonetheless, a founder of the Russian Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, continues to pour fighters into Bakhmut, though the city is no longer a strategic military target, experts say. Robyn Dixon, Washington Post, 22 Oct. 2022 Joe Russo wrote the script after penning the first film, which starred Hemsworth as Tyler Rake, a mercenary grieving hte death of his son who finds a chance at redemption. Aaron Couch, The Hollywood Reporter, 24 Sep. 2022 Anderson didn’t want to sound mercenary or, worse, cheerful. Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune, 16 Sep. 2022 The Russians and their separatist and mercenary allies finally seized Severodonetsk and Lysychansk in early July. David Axe, Forbes, 25 July 2022 At a memorial service Tuesday, a who’s who of Putin-fed nationalism, including the founder of a notorious mercenary group fighting in Ukraine and parts of Africa, mourned the loss and demanded severe punishment of Ukraine. Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2022 Reduced to this, a video showing the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner recruiting prisoners for the war in Ukraine, promising freedom in exchange for fighting on the front line. CBS News, 18 Sep. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mercenary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Noun and Adjective

Middle English, from Latin mercenarius, irregular from merced-, merces wages — more at mercy

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1532, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of mercenary was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near mercenary

Cite this Entry

“Mercenary.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2022.

Kids Definition

mercenary 1 of 2


mer·​ce·​nary ˈmərs-ᵊn-ˌer-ē How to pronounce mercenary (audio)
plural mercenaries
: one that serves only for wages
especially : a soldier hired by a foreign country to fight in its army


2 of 2


: serving only for the pay or reward
mercenary armies
mercenary soldier
: greedy for money
mercenary business owners

More from Merriam-Webster on mercenary

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