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.


  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

adj.“well-earned,” c.1600, past participle adjective from merit (v.). n.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.” v.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. see on its merits.

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