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From Middle English merci, from Anglo-Norman merci (compare Old French merci, mercit), from Latin 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"). See milse.



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. (countable) A blessing, something to be thankful for.
    It was a mercy that we were not inside when the roof collapsed

Related terms[edit]


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


mercy (third-person singular simple present mercies, present participle mercying, simple past and past participle mercied)

  1. (obsolete) To thank.
    • c. 1385, William Langland, Piers Plowman, III:
      Mildeliche Mede þanne · mercyed hem alle / Of þeire gret goodnesse.



  1. Expressing surprise or alarm.
    Mercy! Look at the state of you!

Further reading[edit]

Middle French[edit]


mercy m, f (plural mercys)

  1. mercy (relenting; forbearance to cause or allow harm to another)
    • 1488, Jean Dupré, Lancelot du Lac, page 5:
      la damoiselle qui grant paour avoit de mourir cria mercy
      the lady who was very afraid of dying cried out 'mercy!'