from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency.
  • noun A disposition to be kind and forgiving.
  • noun Something for which to be thankful; a blessing.
  • noun Alleviation of distress; relief.
  • idiom (at the mercy of) Without any protection against; helpless before.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun Pitying forbearance or forgiveness; compassionate leniency toward enemies or wrongdoers; the disposition to treat offenders kindly or tenderly; the exercise of clemency in favor of an offender.
  • noun An act or exercise of forbearance, good will, or favor; also, a kindness undeserved or unexpected; a fortunate or providential circumstance; a blessing: as, it is a mercy that they escaped.
  • noun Pity; compassion; benevolence: as, awork of mercy.
  • noun Discretionary action; unrestrained exercise of the will and the power to punish and to spare: as, to be at one's mercy (that is, wholly in one's power).
  • noun To proclaim a tax.
  • noun Synonyms Clemency, etc. See leniency.
  • noun In criminal law, partial remission of a punishment to which a convict is subject, as distinguished from pardon, or total remission.
  • To thank.
  • To fine; amerce.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Forbearance to inflict harm under circumstances of provocation, when one has the power to inflict it; compassionate treatment of an offender or adversary; clemency.
  • noun Compassionate treatment of the unfortunate and helpless; sometimes, favor, beneficence.
  • noun Disposition to exercise compassion or favor; pity; compassion; willingness to spare or to help.
  • noun A blessing regarded as a manifestation of compassion or favor.
  • noun (Bib.) the golden cover or lid of the Ark of the Covenant. See Ark, 2.
  • noun (R. C. Ch.) a religious order founded in Dublin in the year 1827. Communities of the same name have since been established in various American cities. The duties of those belonging to the order are, to attend lying-in hospitals, to superintend the education of girls, and protect decent women out of employment, to visit prisoners and the sick, and to attend persons condemned to death.
  • noun to be wholly in the power of.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun uncountable relenting; forbearance to cause or allow harm to another
  • noun uncountable forgiveness or compassion, especially toward those less fortunate.
  • noun uncountable A tendency toward forgiveness, pity, or compassion
  • noun countable Instances of forbearance or forgiveness.
  • noun A blessing, something to be thankful for.

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

  • noun a disposition to be kind and forgiving
  • noun the feeling that motivates compassion
  • noun something for which to be thankful
  • noun alleviation of distress; showing great kindness toward the distressed
  • noun leniency and compassion shown toward offenders by a person or agency charged with administering justice


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

[Middle English, from Old French merci, from Medieval Latin mercēs, from Latin, reward.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English merci, from Anglo-Norman merci (compare Old French merci, mercit), from Latin mercēdem, accusative of mercēs ("wages, fee, price"), from merx ("wares, merchandise"). Displaced native Middle English are, ore "mercy" (from Old English ār "mercy, grace"), Middle English mildse "mercy, clemency" (from Old English milds, milts "mercy, kindness").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word mercy.



Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • affection, compassion, pity

    July 23, 2009