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 unmerited

Contemporary Examples of unmerited

Historical Examples of unmerited

  • If he was to be saved at all, he could be saved only by the unmerited grace of God.


    James Anthony Froude

  • "But—you see I had done him an unmerited injury," said Jimmy, soberly.

    Mixed Faces

    Roy Norton

  • From hunted sense of unmerited outlawry I have passed to that of 'ermine' function.

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

  • How escape deserved reckoning in the one and unmerited accounting in the other?

    Oswald Langdon

    Carson Jay Lee

  • He admired their constancy and pitied their unmerited sufferings.

British Dictionary definitions for unmerited


  1. not merited or deserved


  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 unmerited

1640s, from un- (1) "not" + past participle of merit (v.).

"An ingenuous mind feels in unmerited praise the bitterest reproof. If you reject it you are unhappy, if you accept it you are undone." [Walter Savage Landor, "Imaginary Conversations"]



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 unmerited


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.