adjective, mer·ri·er, mer·ri·est.

full of cheerfulness or gaiety; joyous in disposition or spirit: a merry little man.
laughingly happy; mirthful; festively joyous; hilarious: a merry time at the party.
Archaic. causing happiness; pleasant; delightful.


    make merry,
    1. to be happy or festive: The New Year's revelers were making merry in the ballroom.
    2. to make fun of; ridicule: The unthinking children made merry of the boy who had no shoes.

Origin of merry

before 900; Middle English meri(e), myrie, murie, Old English myr(i)ge, mer(i)ge pleasant, delightful
Related formsmer·ri·ly, adverbmer·ri·ness, nouno·ver·mer·ri·ly, adverbo·ver·mer·ri·ness, nouno·ver·mer·ry, adjectiveun·mer·ri·ly, adverbun·mer·ry, adjective
Can be confusedmarry Mary merry

Synonyms for merry

Antonyms for merry

1. sad. 2. solemn.




a female given name. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for merry

Contemporary Examples of merry

Historical Examples of merry

  • His aunt, the Duchess of Savoy, is a merry dame, and a wise!

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • Now and then, he laughed in a merry way, as if he were bantering her out of something.

    To be Read at Dusk

    Charles Dickens

  • Saffy came and went, by no means so merry now that she was more with Corney.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Christmas was a merry day to all but the major, who did not like the engagement any better than before.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • He raised his flagon and drank to him, with a merry flash of his white teeth.

    The White Company

    Arthur Conan Doyle

British Dictionary definitions for merry


adjective -rier or -riest

cheerful; jolly
very funny; hilarious
British informal slightly drunk
archaic delightful
make merry to revel; be festive
play merry hell with informal to disturb greatly; disrupt
Derived Formsmerrily, adverbmerriness, noun

Word Origin for merry

Old English merige agreeable
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 merry

Old English myrge "pleasing, agreeable, pleasant, sweet; pleasantly, melodiously," from Proto-Germanic *murgijaz, which probably originally meant "short-lasting," (cf. Old High German murg "short," Gothic gamaurgjan "to shorten"), from PIE *mreghu- "short" (see brief (adj.)). The only exact cognate for meaning outside English was Middle Dutch mergelijc "joyful."

Connection to "pleasure" is likely via notion of "making time fly, that which makes the time seem to pass quickly" (cf. German Kurzweil "pastime," literally "a short time;" Old Norse skemta "to amuse, entertain, amuse oneself," from skamt, neuter of skammr "short"). There also was a verbal form in Old English, myrgan "be merry, rejoice." For vowel evolution, see bury (v.).

Bot vchon enle we wolde were fyf, þe mo þe myryer. [c.1300]

The word had much wider senses in Middle English, e.g. "pleasant-sounding" (of animal voices), "fine" (of weather), "handsome" (of dress), "pleasant-tasting" (of herbs). Merry-bout "an incident of sexual intercourse" was low slang from 1780. Merry-begot "illegitimate" (adj.), "bastard" (n.) is from 1785. Merrie England (now frequently satirical or ironic) is 14c. meri ingland, originally in a broader sense of "bountiful, prosperous." Merry Monday was a 16c. term for "the Monday before Shrove Tuesday" (Mardi Gras).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper