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See more synonyms for mercenary on Thesaurus.com
  1. working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal.
  2. hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.
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noun, plural mer·ce·nar·ies.
  1. a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
  2. any hireling.
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Origin of mercenary

1350–1400; Middle English mercenarie < Latin mercēnnārius working for pay, hired worker, mercenary, perhaps, representing earlier *mercēd(i)nārius, equivalent to *mercēdin-, stem of *mercēdō, a by-form of mercēs, stem mercēd- payment, wage (akin to merx goods; cf. merchant) + -ārius -ary
Related formsmer·ce·nar·i·ly [mur-suh-nair-uh-lee, mur-suh-ner-] /ˌmɜr səˈnɛər ə li, ˈmɜr səˌnɛr-/, adverbmer·ce·nar·i·ness, nounnon·mer·cen·ar·y, adjective, noun, plural non·mer·cen·ar·ies.un·mer·ce·nar·i·ly, adverbun·mer·ce·nar·i·ness, nounun·mer·ce·nar·y, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for mercenary

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Is it that I am honored by having this mercenary drunkard for a husband?

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • But the most objectionable thing in the mass is its mercenary character.

  • De Launay was rich, of course, but he did not believe that mademoiselle was mercenary.

    Louisiana Lou

    William West Winter

  • But let us not waste time or thought on commercial or mercenary craft.

  • They resolved to collect bodies of mercenary troops, both infantry and horse.



British Dictionary definitions for mercenary


  1. influenced by greed or desire for gain
  2. of or relating to a mercenary or mercenaries
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noun plural -naries
  1. a man hired to fight for a foreign army, etc
  2. rare any person who works solely for pay
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Derived Formsmercenarily, adverbmercenariness, noun

Word Origin

C16: from Latin mercēnārius, from mercēs wages
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 mercenary


late 14c., "one who works only for hire," from Old French mercenaire "mercenary, hireling" (13c.) and directly from Latin mercenarius "one who does anything for pay," literally "hired, paid," from merces (genitive mercedis) "pay, reward, wages," from merx (see market (n.)).

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1530s, from mercenary (n.), or in part from Latin mercenarius "hired, paid, serving for pay."

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper