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From Old French desmerite (compare French démérite).


  • IPA(key): /dɪˈmɛrɪt/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛrɪt


demerit (countable and uncountable, plural demerits)

  1. A quality of being inadequate; a fault; a disadvantage
    • 1790, Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
      They see no merit or demerit in any man or any action.
    • 1672, William Temple, “An Essay upon the Original and Nature of Government. []”, in Miscellanea. The First Part. [...], 3rd edition, London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], and Awnsham and John Churchill, [], published 1691, OCLC 1113628240, page 70:
      [W]hatever they acquire by their Induſtry or Ingenuity [...] ſhould be as much their Property, as any diviſions of Land or of Stock that are made to the Sons; and the Poſſeſſion as ſecure, unleſs forfeited by any demerit or offence againſt the cuſtoms of the Family, which grow with time to be the Orders of this little State.
  2. A mark given for bad conduct to a person attending an educational institution or serving in the army.
    • 2002, George W. Bush, Commencement Address at West Point:
      A few of you have followed in the path of the perfect West Point graduate, Robert E. Lee, who never received a single demerit in four years. Some of you followed in the path of the imperfect graduate, Ulysses S. Grant, who had his fair share of demerits, and said the happiest day of his life was "the day I left West Point." (Laughter.)
  3. That which one merits or deserves, either of good or ill; desert.
    • c. 1550s, Nicholas Udall, Ralph Roister Doister
      Leave here thy body, death has her demerit
    • 1603, Philemon Holland (translator), The Philosophie, commonly called, the Morals (originally by Plutarch)
      By many benefits and demerits whereby they obliged their adherents, [they] acquired this reputation.



Derived termsEdit



demerit (third-person singular simple present demerits, present participle demeriting, simple past and past participle demerited)

  1. (transitive, archaic) To deserve.
    • 1840, Alexander Campbell, Dolphus Skinner, A discussion of the doctrines of the endless misery and universal salvation (page 351)
      You hold that every sin is an infinite evil, demeriting endless punishment.
  2. (transitive, archaic) To depreciate or cry down.
    • 1576, John Woolton, The Christian Manuell
      Faith by her own dignity and worthiness doth not demerit justice and righteousness; but receiveth and embraceth the same offered unto us in the gospel []