mer·cy (mûrs) KEY
at the mercy of
Middle English, from Old French merci, from Medieval Latin mercs, from Latin, reward
mercy, leniency, lenity, clemency, charity
These nouns mean humane and kind, sympathetic, or forgiving treatment of or disposition toward others. Mercy is compassionate forbearance: "We hand folks over to God's mercy, and show none ourselves" (George Eliot). Leniency and lenity imply mildness, gentleness, and often a tendency to reduce punishment: "When you have gone too far to recede, do not sue [appeal] to me for leniency" (Charles Dickens). "His Majesty gave many marks of his great lenity, often . . . endeavoring to extenuate your crimes" (Jonathan Swift). Clemency is mercy shown by someone with judicial authority: The judge believed in clemency for youthful offenders. Charity is goodwill and benevolence in judging others: "But how shall we expect charity towards others, when we are uncharitable to ourselves?" (Thomas Browne).