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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").



mercy (countable and uncountable, plural mercies)

  1. (uncountable) relenting; forbearance to cause or allow harm to another
    She took mercy on him and quit embarrassing him.
  2. (uncountable) forgiveness or compassion, especially toward those less fortunate.
    Have mercy on the poor and assist them if you can.
  3. (uncountable) A tendency toward forgiveness, pity, or compassion
    Mercy is one of his many virtues.
  4. (countable) Instances of forbearance or forgiveness.
    Psalms 40:11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord
  5. A blessing, something to be thankful for.
    It was a mercy that we were not inside when the roof collapsed
  6. (phrasal) Subjugation, power.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 1, The Celebrity:
      The stories did not seem to me to touch life. […] They left me with the impression of a well-delivered stereopticon lecture, with characters about as life-like as the shadows on the screen, and whisking on and off, at the mercy of the operator.

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Middle French[edit]


mercy m, f (plural mercys)

  1. mercy (relenting; forbearance to cause or allow harm to another)