[ lee-nee-uhnt, leen-yuhnt ]
/ ˈli ni ənt, ˈlin yənt /
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See synonyms for: lenient / leniently on Thesaurus.com

agreeably tolerant; permissive; indulgent: He tended to be lenient toward the children. More lenient laws encouraged greater freedom of expression.
Archaic. softening, soothing, or alleviative.
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Origin of lenient

1645–55; <Latin lēnient- (stem of lēniēns), present participle of lēnīre to soften, alleviate, soothe. See lenis, -ent


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does lenient mean?

Lenient means permissive or showing mercy, 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.

The word can be used to describe a person, an action, or a policy. It is especially applied to things like punishments, such as prison sentences, that people think are not severe enough.

The quality of being lenient is leniency.

Example: In my opinion, the punishment is far too lenient—I think he’s getting off too easy.

Where does lenient come from?

The first records of the word lenient come from around 1650. 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, lenient is most often used to describe a person or punishment as being soft or mild. The word is often used in the context of expressing that someone or something is either too lenient or not lenient enough. For example, people often criticize short prison sentences for people who have committed violent crimes as too lenient. When a person is described as being lenient, it often implies that they’re choosing to not strictly enforce rules in order to make things easier for someone. Grandparents are often known for being more lenient than parents when disciplining children (or not disciplining them).

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What are some other forms of lenient?

What are some synonyms for lenient?

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


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

How is lenient used in real life?

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



Try using lenient!

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

A. strict
B. permissive
C. forgiving
D. easygoing

How to use lenient in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for lenient

/ (ˈliːnɪənt) /

showing or characterized by mercy or tolerance
archaic caressing or soothing

Derived forms of lenient

leniency or lenience, nounleniently, adverb

Word Origin for lenient

C17: from Latin lēnīre to soothe, from lēnis soft
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