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See also: Merit, mèrit, and měřit



From Middle English merite, from Old French merite, from Latin meritum (that which one deserves; 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 (méros, a part, lot, fate, destiny).


  • (file)
  • enPR: mĕrʹĭt, IPA(key): /ˈmɛɹ.ɪt/
  • Rhymes: -ɛɹɪt


merit (countable and uncountable, plural merits)

  1. Something deserving positive recognition.
    His reward for his merit was a check for $50.
  2. Something worthy of a high rating.
    • a. 1876, Richard Fuller, “Worth”, in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, editor, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers, page 623:
      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.
  3. A claim to commendation or reward.
  4. The quality of deserving reward.
    • c. 1603–1604, William Shakespeare, “The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, (please specify the act number in uppercase Roman numerals):
      , [Act III, scene iii]:
      Reputation is an idle, and moſt falſe impoſition ; oft got without merit, aud[sic, meaning and] loſt without deſeruing.
    • 1709, Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”, in Miscellaneous Poems and Translations, By several Hands, page 67:
      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 authors merit but his own.
  5. Reward deserved; any mark or token of excellence or approbation.
    His teacher gave him ten merits.
    • a. 1721, Matthew Prior, “An Ode Humbly inscrib’d to the Queen”, in Poems on Several Occasions, page 169:
      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.
  6. (obsolete) The quality or state of deserving either good or bad.





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

  1. (transitive) To earn or to deserve.
    Her performance merited its wild applause.
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 5, in The Celebrity:
      Although the Celebrity was almost impervious to sarcasm, he was now beginning to exhibit visible signs of uneasiness, the consciousness dawning upon him that his eccentricity was not receiving the ovation it merited.
  2. (intransitive) To be worthy or deserving.
    They were punished as they merited.
    • 1532, Sir Thomas More, The cōfutacyon of Tyndales an­swere made by syr Thomas More knyght lorde chaūcellour of Englonde[1], page cclxxiiii:
      [] and yet he bode them do yt, and they were bounde to obaye and meryted and deserued by theyr obedyēce.
  3. (obsolete, rare, transitive) To reward.
    • 1616, George Chapman, The Iliads of Homer, Prince of Poets, volume I, new edition, London: Charles Knight and Co., published 1843, book IX, page 203:
      Thus charg’d thy sire, which thou forgett’st : yet now those thoughts appease / That torture thy great spirit with wrath ; which if thou wilt give surcease, / The king will merit it with gifts ; and if thou wilt give ear / I’ll tell you how much he offers thee : yet thou sitt’st angry here.

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From Latin meritum.


merit m (plural meric)

  1. merit