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See also: Merit, mèrit, and měřit



The noun is derived from Middle English merī̆t, merī̆te (quality of person’s character or conduct deserving of reward or punishment; such reward or punishment; excellence, worthiness; benefit; right to be rewarded for spiritual service; retribution at doomsday; virtue through which Jesus Christ brings about salvation; virtue possessed by a holy person; power of a pagan deity),[1] from Anglo-Norman merit, merite, Old French merite (moral worth, reward; merit) (modern French mérite), from Latin meritum (that which one deserves, deserts; benefit, reward, merit; service; kindness; importance, value, worth; blame, demerit, fault; grounds, reason), neuter of meritus (deserved, earned, obtained; due, proper, right; deserving, meritorious), perfect passive participle of mereō (to deserve, earn, obtain, merit; to earn a living), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)mer- (to allot, assign). The English word is probably cognate with Ancient Greek μέρος (méros, component, part; portion, share; destiny, fate, lot) and cognate with Old Occitan merit.[2]

The verb is derived from Middle French meriter, Old French meriter (to deserve, merit) (modern French mériter), from merite: see further above. The word is cognate with Italian meritare (to deserve, merit; to be worth; to earn), Latin meritāre (to earn regularly; to serve as a soldier), Spanish meritar (to deserve, merit; to earn).[3]



merit (countable and uncountable, plural merits)

  1. (countable) A claim to commendation or a reward.
  2. (countable) A mark or token of approbation or to recognize excellence.
    For her good performance in the examination, her teacher gave her ten merits.
    • a. 1722, Matthew Prior, “An Ode Humbly Inscrib’d to the Queen”, in The Poetical Works of Matthew Prior: [], in Two Volumes, volume I, London: Printed for W[illiam] Strahan, [], published 1779, OCLC 491256769, stanza IX, page 275:
      Thoſe laurel groves (the merits of thy youth), / Which thou from Mahomet didſt greatly gain, / While, bold aſſertor of reſiſtleſs truth, / Thy ſword did godlike liberty maintain, / Muſt from thy brow their falling honours ſhed, / And their tranſplanted wreaths muſt deck a worthier head.
  3. (countable, uncountable) Something deserving or worthy of positive recognition or reward.
    Synonyms: excellence, worth
    His reward for his merit was a check for $50.
    • 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: Printed for W. Lewis [], published 1711, OCLC 15810849, page 42:
      Such was Roſcommon—not more learn’d than good; / With Manners gen’rous as his Noble Blood; / To him the Wit of Greece and Rome was known, / And ev’ry Author’s Merit but his own.
    • 1877, Richard Fuller, “Sermon Thirteenth. The Gospel Stifled by Covetousness.”, in Sermons by Richard Fuller, [] (Second Series), Baltimore, Md.: Published by John F[rederick] Weishampel, Jr.; Philadelphia, Pa.: American Baptist Publication Society; New York, N.Y.: Sheldon and Company, OCLC 1084857360, page 244:
      In all our noble Anglo-Saxon language, there is scarcely a nobler word than worth; yet this term has now almost exclusively a pecuniary meaning. So that if you ask what a man is worth, nobody ever thinks of telling you what he is, but what he has. The answer will never refer to his merits, his virtues, but always to his possessions. He is worth—so much money.
  4. (uncountable, Buddhism, Jainism) The sum of all the good deeds that a person does which determines the quality of the person's next state of existence and contributes to the person's growth towards enlightenment.
    to acquire or make merit
  5. (uncountable, law) Usually in the plural form the merits: the substantive rightness or wrongness of a legal argument, a lawsuit, etc., as opposed to technical matters such as the admissibility of evidence or points of legal procedure; (by extension) the overall good or bad quality, or rightness or wrongness, of some other thing.
    Even though the plaintiff was ordered by the judge to pay some costs for not having followed the correct procedure, she won the case on the merits.
  6. (countable, obsolete) The quality or state of deserving retribution, whether reward or punishment.



Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



merit (third-person singular simple present merits, present participle meriting, simple past and past participle merited)

  1. (transitive) To deserve, to earn.
    Her performance merited its wild applause.
  2. (intransitive) To be deserving or worthy.
    They were punished as they merited.
  3. (transitive, obsolete, rare) To reward.


Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ merī̆t(e, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2019.
  2. ^ merit, n.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001; “merit” (US) / “merit” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ merit, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001.

Further reading[edit]




From Latin meritum.


merit m (plural meric)

  1. merit