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adjective, superlative mer·est.
  1. being nothing more nor better than: a mere pittance; He is still a mere child.
  2. Obsolete.
    1. pure and unmixed, as wine, a people, or a language.
    2. fully as much as what is specified; completely fulfilled or developed; absolute.

Origin of mere1

1250–1300; Middle English < Latin merus pure, unmixed, mere
Can be confusedmere mère mirror

Synonym study

1. Mere, bare imply a scant sufficiency. They are often interchangeable, but mere frequently means no more than (enough). Bare suggests scarcely as much as (enough). Thus a mere livelihood means enough to live on but no more; a bare livelihood means scarcely enough to live on.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for merest

Historical Examples

  • Aggie sniffed, as if such an outcome were the merest bagatelle.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • On another, it might have appeared perhaps the merest trifle garish.

    Within the Law

    Marvin Dana

  • He tells lies like a woman, for the pleasure of it, for the merest trifle.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • It was the merest chance in the world that Porter went up at all.

  • It seemed that he saw the merest ghost of a flicker in Murray's left eye.

    The Martian Cabal

    Roman Frederick Starzl

British Dictionary definitions for merest


adjective superlative merest
  1. being nothing more than something specifiedshe is a mere child

Word Origin

C15: from Latin merus pure, unmixed


  1. archaic, or dialect a lake or marsh
  2. obsolete the sea or an inlet of it

Word Origin

Old English mere sea, lake; related to Old Saxon meri sea, Old Norse marr, Old High German mari; compare Latin mare


  1. archaic a boundary or boundary marker

Word Origin

Old English gemǣre


  1. NZ a short flat striking weapon

Word Origin

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for merest



c.1400, "unmixed, pure," from Old French mier "pure" (of gold), "entire, total, complete," and directly from Latin merus "unmixed" (of wine), "pure; bare, naked;" figuratively "true, real, genuine," probably originally "clear, bright," from PIE *mer- "to gleam, glimmer, sparkle" (cf. Old English amerian "to purify," Old Irish emer "not clear," Sanskrit maricih "ray, beam," Greek marmarein "to gleam, glimmer"). Original sense of "nothing less than, absolute" (mid-15c., now only in vestiges such as mere folly) existed for centuries alongside opposite sense of "nothing more than" (1580s, e.g. a mere dream).



Old English mere "sea, ocean; lake, pool, pond, cistern," from Proto-Germanic *mari (cf. Old Norse marr, Old Saxon meri "sea," Middle Dutch maer, Dutch meer "lake, sea, pool," Old High German mari, German Meer "sea," Gothic marei "sea," mari-saiws "lake"), from PIE *mori- "sea" (cf. Latin mare, Old Church Slavonic morje, Russian more, Lithuanian mares, Old Irish muir, Welsh mor "sea," Gaulish Are-morici "people living near the sea").

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper