from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Superior quality or worth; excellence: a proposal of some merit; an ill-advised plan without merit.
  • n. A quality deserving praise or approval; virtue: a store having the merit of being open late.
  • n. Demonstrated ability or achievement: promotions based on merit alone.
  • n. An aspect of character or behavior deserving approval or disapproval. Often used in the plural: judging people according to their merits.
  • n. Christianity Spiritual credit granted for good works.
  • n. Law A party's strict legal rights, excluding jurisdictional, personal, or technical aspects.
  • n. The factual content of a matter, apart from emotional, contextual, or formal considerations.
  • transitive v. To earn; deserve. See Synonyms at earn1.
  • intransitive v. To be worthy or deserving: Pupils are rewarded or corrected, as they merit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Something deserving good recognition.
  • n. Something worthy of a high rating.
  • n. A claim to commendation or reward.
  • n. The quality of deserving reward.
  • v. To earn or to deserve.
  • v. To be worthy or deserving.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The quality or state of deserving well or ill; desert.
  • n. The quality or state of deserving well; worth; excellence.
  • n. Reward deserved; any mark or token of excellence or approbation.
  • intransitive v. To acquire desert; to gain value; to receive benefit; to profit.
  • transitive v. To earn by service or performance; to have a right to claim as reward; to deserve; sometimes, to deserve in a bad sense.
  • transitive v. To reward.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To deserve; earn a right or incur a liability to; be or become deserving of: as, to merit reward or punishment.
  • To deserve as a reward; earn by commendable action or conduct.
  • To reward.
  • Synonyms and See desert, n.
  • To acquire merit, benefit, or profit.
  • n. That which is deserved; honor or reward due; recompense or consideration deserved.
  • n. The state or fact of deserving; desert, good or bad; intrinsic ground of consideration or award: most commonly in the plural: as, to treat a person according to his merits.
  • n. Specifically The state or fact of deserving well; good desert; worthiness of reward or consideration.
  • n. Good quality in general; excellence.
  • n. That which deserves consideration or reward; ground of desert; claim to notice or commendation: as, to enumerate the merits of a person, a book, or a scheme.
  • n. plural In law, the right and wrong of a ease; the strict legal or equitable rights of the parties, as distinguished from questions of procedure and matters resting in judicial discretion or favor; essential facts and principles that lead to an opinion clear of personal bias: as, to judge a case on its merits.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the quality of being deserving (e.g., deserving assistance)
  • n. any admirable quality or attribute
  • v. be worthy or deserving


Middle English, from Old French merite, reward or punishment, from Latin meritum, from neuter past participle of merēre, to deserve; see (s)mer-2 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English merite, from Old French merite, from Latin meritum ("that which one deserves, just deserts; service, kindness, benefit, fault, blame, demerit, grounds, reason, worth, value, importance"), neuter of meritus, past participle of mereō ("I deserve, earn, gain, get, acquire"), akin to Ancient Greek μέρος (meros, "a part, lot, fate, destiny"). (Wiktionary)


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