[ klem-uhn-see ]
/ ˈklɛm ən si /
Save This Word!

noun, plural clem·en·cies.
the quality of being clement; disposition to show forbearance, compassion, or forgiveness in judging or punishing; leniency; mercy.
an act or deed showing mercy or leniency.
(of the weather) mildness or temperateness.
Were you ready for a quiz on this topic? Well, here it is! See how well you can differentiate between the uses of "was" vs. "were" in this quiz.
Question 1 of 7
“Was” is used for the indicative past tense of “to be,” and “were” is only used for the subjunctive past tense.

Origin of clemency

1375–1425; late Middle English (<Anglo-French ) <Latin clēmentia.See clement, -cy


o·ver·clem·en·cy, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


what does clemency mean?

Clemency is mercy or the quality of being lenient.

Clemency is most commonly used in a legal context for situations in which a prisoner is officially pardoned or has their sentence shortened.

Example: The governor has granted her clemency, meaning she will be released early.

Where does clemency come from?

The first evidence of the use of clemency in the English language comes from around 1400. It derives from the Latin clementia, which comes from the Latin clēmēns, meaning “gentle” or “merciful.”

Clemency has always been used to mean “mercifulness” or “mildness,” especially that of someone who holds power or authority, like a king or queen. Such a person could be said to have shown clemency if, for example, they could have had someone punished but did not.

This is how the term is used today. In law and criminal justice, clemency refers specifically to an executive official (like a president or governor) officially granting mercy to someone who has been convicted of a crime. This can take several forms, including a pardon (in which the crime is forgiven and the punishment is cancelled), a reprieve (in which the convicted person is given additional time before their punishment takes effect), or the commutation of a sentence (in which the punishment is reduced in some way).

Much more rarely, the word clemency is used to refer to mild weather. A much more commonly used form of this word is inclement, which is used to describe bad weather.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms of clemency?

  • clement (adjective)
  • overclemency (noun)
  • inclemency (noun)

What are some synonyms for clemency?

What are some words that share a root or word element with clemency

What are some words that often get used in discussing clemency?

How is clemency used in real life?

Clemency is most often used in the context of criminal justice.



Try using clemency!

Is clemency used correctly in the following sentence?

New pathways to clemency mean that some prisoners will have the opportunity to be released early.

How to use clemency in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for clemency

/ (ˈklɛmənsɪ) /

noun plural -cies
mercy or leniency
mildness, esp of the weather

Word Origin for clemency

C15: from Latin clēmentia, from clēmēns gentle
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