noun (pl. mercies) [mass noun] compassion or forgiveness shown towards someone whom it is within one's power to punish or harm
the boy was screaming and begging for mercy | [count noun] the mercies of God
■ [count noun] an event to be grateful for, because it prevents something unpleasant or provides relief from suffering
his death was in a way a mercy
■ [as modifier] (especially of a journey or mission) performed out of a desire to relieve suffering
mercy missions to refugees caught up in the fighting
exclamation archaic used in expressions of surprise or fear
‘Mercy me!’ uttered Mrs Diggory
- at the mercy of
- be thankful for small mercies
- have mercy on
- leave someone/thing to the mercy of
- throw oneself on someone's mercy
Middle English: from Old French merci ‘pity’ or ‘thanks’, from Latin merces, merced- ‘reward’, in Christian Latin ‘pity, favour, heavenly reward’
1) N-UNCOUNT If someone in authority shows mercy, they choose not to harm someone they have power over, or they forgive someone they have the right to punish.
Neither side took prisoners or showed any mercy...
They cried for mercy but their pleas were met with abuse and laughter...
May God have mercy on your soul.
2) ADJ: ADJ n Mercy is used to describe a special journey to help someone in great need, such as people who are sick or made homeless by war. [JOURNALISM]
She vanished nine months ago while on a mercy mission to West Africa...
It's the first so-called mercy flight for a fortnight as the Americans have been waiting for enough people to fill a 747 jet.
3) N-COUNT: usu a N If you refer to an event or situation as a mercy, you mean that it makes you feel happy or relieved, usually because it stops something unpleasant happening.
It really was a mercy that he'd gone so rapidly at the end...
The two cars finished up in a run-off area, clear of the circuit, and that was a mercy.
4) PHRASE: with poss, usu PHR after v, v-link PHR If one person or thing is at the mercy of another, the first person or thing is in a situation where they cannot prevent themselves being harmed or affected by the second.
Buildings are left to decay at the mercy of vandals and the weather...
The Emperor must realize that he has us at his mercy.
5) PHRASE: usu v-link PHR If you tell someone who is in an unpleasant situation that they should be grateful or thankful for small mercies, you mean that although their situation is bad, it could be even worse, and so they should be happy.
But so low has morale sunk that the team and the fans would have been grateful for small mercies.
6) PHRASE: V inflects If you throw yourself on someone's mercy, you put yourself in a situation where they will have complete power to decide how to treat you, for example whether to punish or forgive you.
He's going to throw himself on the mercy of the court.