Open main menu
See also: Merit, mèrit, and měřit




The noun is derived from Middle English merit, merite (quality of person’s character or conduct deserving of reward or punishment; such reward or punishment; excellence, worthiness; benefit; right to be rewarded for spiritual service; retribution at doomsday; virtue through which Jesus Christ brings about salvation; virtue possessed by a holy person; power of a pagan deity),[1] from Anglo-Norman merit, merite, Old French merite (moral worth, reward; merit) (modern French mérite), from Latin meritum (that which one deserves, deserts; benefit, reward, merit; service; kindness; importance, value, worth; blame, demerit, fault; grounds, reason), neuter of meritus (deserved, earned, obtained; due, proper, right; deserving, meritorious), perfect passive participle of mereō (to deserve, earn, obtain, merit; to earn a living), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)mer- (to allot, assign). The English word is probably cognate with Ancient Greek μέρος (méros, component, part; portion, share; destiny, fate, lot) and cognate with Old Occitan merit.[2]

The verb is derived from Middle French meriter, Old French meriter (to deserve, merit) (modern French mériter), from merite: see further above. The word is cognate with Italian meritare (to deserve, merit; to be worth; to earn), Latin meritāre (to earn regularly; to serve as a soldier), Spanish meritar (to deserve, merit; to earn).[3]



merit (countable and uncountable, plural merits)

  1. (countable) A claim to commendation or a reward.
  2. (countable) A mark or token of approbation or to recognize excellence.
    Antonym: demerit
    For her good performance in the examination, her teacher gave her ten merits.
    • a. 1722, Matthew Prior, “An Ode Humbly Inscrib’d to the Queen”, in The Poetical Works of Matthew Prior: [], in Two Volumes, volume I, London: Printed for W[illiam] Strahan, [], published 1779, OCLC 491256769, stanza IX, page 275:
      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.
  3. (countable, uncountable) Something deserving or worthy of positive recognition or reward.
    Synonyms: excellence, value, worth
    Antonym: demerit
    His reward for his merit was a check for $50.
    • 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: Printed for W. Lewis [], published 1711, OCLC 15810849, page 42:
      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 Author’s Merit but his own.
    • 1877, Richard Fuller, “Sermon Thirteenth. The Gospel Stifled by Covetousness.”, in Sermons by Richard Fuller, [] (Second Series), Baltimore, Md.: Published by John F[rederick] Weishampel, Jr.; Philadelphia, Pa.: American Baptist Publication Society; New York, N.Y.: Sheldon and Company, OCLC 1084857360, page 244:
      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.
  4. (uncountable, Buddhism, Jainism) The sum of all the good deeds that a person does which determines the quality of the person's next state of existence and contributes to the person's growth towards enlightenment.
    to acquire or make merit
    • 1855 October, “Siamese Merit-making”, in The Church Missionary Gleaner, volume V (New Series), London: Seeley, Jackson and Halliday [], OCLC 1061908554, page 118:
      It is no small tax upon the people to support their [Buddhist] priests, but they do it with a willing heart. When I was once at the old capital, I saw a woman, from her own stock, feed more than fifty priests, who came to her in his turn, and received his portion. [...] If I had asked her why she thus spent so much of her living, her answer would have been, 'To make merit.'
    • 2015, Monica Lindberg Falk, “Communication across Boundaries”, in Post-Tsunami Recovery in Thailand: Socio-cultural Responses (The Modern Anthropology of Southeast Asia), Abingdon, Oxfordshire; New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 90:
      At funerals, acts of sharing religious merit are central and relatives of the deceased make merit in order to ensure that the departed family member will have a favourable rebirth.
  5. (uncountable, law) Usually in the plural form the merits: the substantive rightness or wrongness of a legal argument, a lawsuit, etc., as opposed to technical matters such as the admissibility of evidence or points of legal procedure; (by extension) the overall good or bad quality, or rightness or wrongness, of some other thing.
    Even though the plaintiff was ordered by the judge to pay some costs for not having followed the correct procedure, she won the case on the merits.
    • 1740, [Mathew Bacon], “Injunctions”, in A New Abridgment of the Law. By a Gentleman of the Middle Temple, volume III, in the Savoy [London]: Printed by E. and R. Nutt, and R. Gosling, (assigns of E. Sayer, Esq;) for Henry Lintot, OCLC 1103168245, section C (How Dissolved), page 177:
      The Plaintiff muſt ſhew Cauſe either on the Merits, or upon filing Exceptions; if upon the Merits, the Court may put what Terms they pleaſe on him; as bringing in the Money, or paying it to the Parties, ſubject to the Order of the Court, [...]
    • 2014, Karel Wellens, “Failed Post-adjudicative Negotiations and Returning to the Court”, in Negotiations in the Case Law of the International Court of Justice: A Functional Analysis, Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate Publishing, →ISBN, part III (Negotiations during the Post-adjudicative Phase), page 311:
      [I]n most cases once the Court has performed its judicial function – as it had been determined by the parties through their Application or Special Agreement and their submissions – and has rendered its judgment on the merits of the case, a new phrase of functional interaction commences.
  6. (countable, obsolete) The quality or state of deserving retribution, whether reward or punishment.

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



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

  1. (transitive) To deserve, to earn.
    Her performance merited wild applause.
    • 1806, “Art. I.—Voyages en Italie, &c. Travels in Italy and Sicily, Made in 1801 and 1802. By M. Creuzé de Lesser, Member of the Legislative Body. 8vo. Paris. 1806. Imported by De Conchy. [book review]”, in The Critical Review: Or, Annals of Literature (Series the Third), volume IX (Appendix), number V, London: Printed for J. Mawman, []; and sold by J. Deighton, []; Hanwell and Parker, and J. Cooke, [], OCLC 1065758738, page 465:
      Oh! France! charming country! where I had the good fortune to be born! one never quits thee with impunity. Celebrated for the rich beauty of thy soil, for the sociability of thy inhabitants, for all the comforts of civilized life, thou meritest thy reputation, and nothing is so rare.
    • 1814, Dante Alighieri, “Canto V”, in H[enry] F[rancis] Cary, transl., The Vision; or, Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, of Dante Alighieri. [...] In Three Volumes, volume II (Purgatory), London: Printed for Taylor and Hessey, [], OCLC 559008226, lines 19–21, page 19:
      What other could I answer save "I come"? / I said it, somewhat with that colour ting'd / Which oftimes pardon meriteth for man.
    • 1897, Winston Churchill, chapter V, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., published March 1898, OCLC 222716698, page 78:
      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.
    • 2014, Hanoch Sheinman, “Tort Law and Distributive Justice”, in John Oberdiek, editor, Philosophical Foundations of the Law of Torts, Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, part III (The Aristotelian Distinction), page 361:
      Take the principle that requires distribution of help in accord with need. It would certainly support allocating some help to its only potential recipient, provided she is in need. And on the plausible assumption that the more meriting of some good one is the more good one merits, the principle would support allocating more of the help to her the greater her needs.
  2. (intransitive) To be deserving or worthy.
    They were punished as they merited.
    • 1532, Thomas More, The Cōfutacyon of Tyndales An­swere [], prentyd at London: By Wyllyam Rastell, OCLC 11636675, page cclxxiiii:
      [A]nd yet he bode them do yt, and they were bounde to obaye and meryted and deserued by theyr obedyēce.
    • 1753, Thomas of Jesus, “Suffering of Christ. [Contemplation on Christ Carrying His Cross.]”, in The Sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Written Originally in Portuguese [...] Newly and Faithfully Translated into English. In Three Volumes, volume III, London: Printed for J. Marmaduke, OCLC 1103171114, paragraph VIII, page 209:
      There is none but thee, O ſon of the living God! O faithful friend of our ſouls! that willingly beareſt the croſs for others. All that thou meriteſt by thy croſs, thou meriteſt for us; and thou deſireſt no our recompence for it than our profit.
  3. (transitive, obsolete, rare) To reward.


Derived termsEdit



  1. ^ merī̆t(e, n.” in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007, retrieved 12 February 2019.
  2. ^ merit, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001; “merit” in Lexico,; Oxford University Press.
  3. ^ merit, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2001.

Further readingEdit




From Latin meritum.


merit m (plural meric)

  1. merit