See more synonyms for merit on
  1. claim to respect and praise; excellence; worth.
  2. something that deserves or justifies a reward or commendation; a commendable quality, act, etc.: The book's only merit is its sincerity.
  3. merits, the inherent rights and wrongs of a matter, as a lawsuit, unobscured by procedural details, technicalities, personal feelings, etc.: The case will be decided on its merits alone.
  4. Often merits. the state or fact of deserving; desert: to treat people according to their merits.
  5. Roman Catholic Church. worthiness of spiritual reward, acquired by righteous acts made under the influence of grace.
  6. Obsolete. something that is deserved, whether good or bad.
verb (used with object)
  1. to be worthy of; deserve.
verb (used without object)
  1. Chiefly Theology. to acquire merit.
  1. based on merit: a merit raise of $25 a week.

Origin of merit

1175–1225; Middle English < Latin meritum act worthy of praise (or blame), noun use of neuter of meritus, past participle of merēre to earn
Related formsmer·it·ed·ly, adverbmer·it·less, adjectivehalf-mer·it·ed, adjectiveo·ver·mer·it, verbpre·mer·it, verb (used with object)self-mer·it, nounun·mer·it·ed, adjectiveun·mer·it·ed·ly, adverbwell-mer·it·ed, adjective

Synonyms for merit

See more synonyms for on

Synonym study

1. See desert3. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for merit

Contemporary Examples of merit

Historical Examples of merit

  • Does he believe, that the disgrace which I supper on his account, will give him a merit with me?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • But give up an inclination, and there is some merit in that.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • But the recognition of his merit came sooner than could have been expected.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • I vindicated the good Mrs. Norton with a warmth that was due to her merit.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • What merit was there in being what it would be contemptible not to be?

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for merit


  1. worth or superior quality; excellencework of great merit
  2. (often plural) a deserving or commendable quality or actjudge him on his merits
  3. Christianity spiritual credit granted or received for good works
  4. the fact or state of deserving; desert
  5. an obsolete word for reward
verb -its, -iting or -ited
  1. (tr) to be worthy of; deservehe merits promotion
See also merits
Derived Formsmerited, adjectivemeritless, adjective

Word Origin for merit

C13: via Old French from Latin meritum reward, desert, from merēre to deserve
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 merit

c.1200, "spiritual credit" (for good works, etc.); c.1300, "spiritual reward," from Old French merite "wages, pay, reward; thanks; merit, moral worth, that which assures divine pity," and directly from Latin meritum "a merit, service, kindness, benefit, favor; worth, value, importance," neuter of meritus, past participle of merere, meriri "to earn, deserve, acquire, gain," from PIE root *(s)mer- "to allot, assign" (cf. Greek meros "part, lot," moira "share, fate," moros "fate, destiny, doom," Hittite mark "to divide" a sacrifice).

Sense of "worthiness, excellence" is from early 14c.; from late 14c. as "condition or conduct that deserves either reward or punishment;" also "a reward, benefit." Related: Merits. Merit system attested from 1880. Merit-monger was in common use 16c.-17c. in a sense roughly of "do-gooder."


late 15c., "to be entitled to," from Middle French meriter (Modern French mériter), from merite (n.), or directly from Latin meritare "to earn, yield," frequentative of mereri "to earn (money);" also "to serve as a soldier" (see merit (n.)). Related: Merited; meriting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with merit


see on its merits.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.