[ lee-nee-uhn-see, leen-yuhn- ]
/ ˈli ni ən si, ˈlin yən- /
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noun, plural le·ni·en·cies.
the quality or state of being lenient.
a lenient act.
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The rainy weather could not ________ my elated spirits on my graduation day.
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Also le·ni·ence .

Origin of leniency

First recorded in 1770–80; leni(ent) + -ency
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does leniency mean?

Leniency is the quality of being lenient—permissive or merciful, as opposed to strict or harsh.

When you’re lenient with someone, you go easy on them. The word sometimes implies that maybe you’re going too easy, and should be more strict. On the other hand, if someone thinks a person is being too strict, such as when disciplining a child, they may tell them to be more lenient.

A person, an action, or a policy can show or have the quality of leniency. The word is especially used in the context of punishments, especially official ones like prison sentences. In this case, it’s often used to imply that such a punishment is not severe enough in the opinion of the speaker.

A less common variant of leniency is lenience.

Example: In my opinion, they’ve shown far too much leniency with his punishment—I think he’s getting off too easy.

Where does leniency come from?

The first records of the word leniency come from around 1780. It ultimately derives from the Latin verb lēnīre, meaning “to soften, soothe, or alleviate” (lēnīre comes from the Latin lenis, meaning “soft” or “mild”). Lenient was first used in the context of medical remedies to ease pain or discomfort. (The related word lenitive is still used in this sense.)

Today, leniency is most often used to refer to the mildness of a punishment. For example, people often criticize courts for showing too much leniency when giving short prison sentences for people who have committed violent crimes. Leniency often implies that a person is choosing to not strictly enforce rules in order to make things easier for someone. Grandparents are often known for having more leniency than parents when disciplining children (or not disciplining them).

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What are some other forms of leniency?

  • lenience (noun)
  • lenient (adjective)

What are some synonyms for leniency?

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


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

How is leniency used in real life?

Leniency is used in many different contexts, but most of them involve rules and punishment.



Try using leniency!

Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite) of leniency?

A. strictness
B. permissiveness
C. forgiveness
D. laxness

How to use leniency in a sentence