Definition of mercy in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmərsē/

noun (plural mercies)

1Compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm: the boy was screaming and begging for mercy the mercies of God
More example sentences
  • The person with the lower voice is in the authority position, in that she is the one causing harm and from whom mercy is begged.
  • There are instances in which Mohammed behaved harshly and unjustly in his dealings with people and without mercy towards his enemies.
  • He metes out justice without mercy, with no compassion for any man, an insult to your grandfather's legacy, and your father's.
leniency, clemency, compassion, grace, pity, charity, forgiveness, forbearance, quarter, humanity;
soft-heartedness, tenderheartedness, kindness, sympathy, liberality, indulgence, tolerance, generosity, magnanimity, beneficence
1.1An event to be grateful for, especially because its occurrence prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering: his death was in a way a mercy
More example sentences
  • Consistency has never been his forte, so perhaps we should be grateful for the mercies this album provides.
  • The Blues, experiencing troubled times, are grateful for any mercies these days and they gratefully accepted the four points for a victory that nudges them ahead of Glasgow in the Celtic League.
  • They are not killed, as are Easy Rider's dynamic duo, but death would seem a mercy in the face of the fate society seems to have in store for them.
blessing, godsend, boon, favor, piece/stroke of luck, windfall
1.2 [as modifier] (Especially of a journey or mission) performed out of a desire to relieve suffering; motivated by compassion: mercy missions to refugees caught up in the fighting
More example sentences
  • Philomena Smyth said the walk was the first fund-raising activity for the mercy mission.
  • Noreen took her 10-year-old grand-daughter on the mercy mission.
  • The aid worker, who quit the army in 1992 to become a civilian engineering contractor, revealed how he turned down a well-paid job in Portugal to join the mercy mission.


Used in expressions of surprise or fear: “Mercy me!” uttered Mrs. Garfield
More example sentences
  • Oh and back to the skimpy caribana costumes. lawd a mercy!
  • Ah mean is it too much to ask for even a ‘throw your hands in the air’ a few ‘lawd a mercy!’



at the mercy of

Completely in the power or under the control of: consumers were at the mercy of every rogue in the marketplace
More example sentences
  • They in turn are at the mercy of the power companies for electricity to transmitters and relay stations.
  • It's a nightmare that I suppose most people have of being naked and at the mercy of some strange power.
  • A factory job with all its miseries would be better than being at the mercy of this woman's power over your job and cottage.
in the power of, under/in the control of, in the clutches of, subject to
defenseless against, vulnerable to, exposed to, susceptible to, prey to, (wide) open to

be thankful (or grateful) for small mercies

Be relieved that an unpleasant situation is alleviated by minor advantages.
Example sentences
  • That would not be as good as live Friday night coverage, but we might have to be thankful for small mercies.
  • Must be grateful for small mercies, or so they say…
  • Should be grateful for small mercies, I suppose.

have mercy on (or upon)

Show compassion or forgiveness to: may the Lord have mercy on her soul
More example sentences
  • And every mother prays for her son, May God forgive him and have mercy on him.
  • If God is all forgiving then he will have mercy on us for taking some drastic measures to defend the people.
  • O Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, guide me aright and grant me sustenance.

leave someone/something to the mercy of

Expose someone or something to a situation of probable danger or harm: the forest is left to the mercy of the loggers
More example sentences
  • If we had been left to the mercy of Aer Lingus and their fares we would have had to move to Brussels altogether.
  • High street traders who had to close their stores after flash floods on Tuesday say their shops have been left to the mercy of the weather after gullies and drainage were removed.
  • Under this constitution, rights are left to the mercy of predators such as Howard and expedient windbags like Beazley.

throw oneself on someone's mercy

Intentionally place oneself in a situation in which one must rely on someone else to be compassionate or lenient towards one.
Example sentences
  • I confessed to knowing nothing about Italian cheese and threw myself on his mercy.
  • I prayed to Jesus to help me many times and threw myself on his mercy.
  • I buzzed on the salon door, was let inside, and threw myself on his mercy.


Middle English: from Old French merci 'pity' or 'thanks', from Latin merces, merced- 'reward', in Christian Latin 'pity, favor, heavenly reward'.

  • In the Latin of the early Christian Church, merces, which had meant simply ‘reward’ in classical times, came to be used for ‘heavenly reward’ and also ‘pity, favour’. These are the senses in which mercy first appears in the Middle Ages. The phrase to be thankful for small mercies is first recorded in Sir Walter Scott's novel The Heart of Midlothian, published in 1818.

Words that rhyme with mercy

arsy-versy, Circe, Percy, pursy

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: mer·cy

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