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[mur-suh-ner-ee] /ˈmɜr səˌnɛr i/
working or acting merely for money or other reward; venal.
hired to serve in a foreign army, guerrilla organization, etc.
noun, plural mercenaries.
a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.
any hireling.
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 forms
[mur-suh-nair-uh-lee, mur-suh-ner-] /ˌmɜr səˈnɛər ə li, ˈmɜr səˌnɛr-/ (Show IPA),
mercenariness, noun
nonmercenary, adjective, noun, plural nonmercenaries.
unmercenarily, adverb
unmercenariness, noun
unmercenary, adjective
1. grasping, acquisitive, avaricious, covetous.
1. altruistic, idealistic, unselfish. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for mercenaries
  • No democracy, and certainly not ours, should ever fight a war with mercenaries.
  • Maybe it's the way a court wizard will hire mercenaries to hunt you down for stealing his potions.
  • mercenaries is a pejorative and distinctly cruel word for a reason.
  • In the course of this testimony, he made the statement that he did not want to command an army of mercenaries.
  • Now imagine paying a small team of mercenaries to protect the hardware from tinkering and theft.
  • Instead, researchers have become intellectual mercenaries for product teams: they are there to solve immediate needs.
  • But only his inner circle and paid mercenaries were allowed inside.
  • The planet sends out a volunteer to find mercenaries.
  • Behind the tanks come the mercenaries and neither will be stopped by a now-fly zone.
  • The picture opens in utter confusion as a band of mercenaries swoops down on a little river-landing outpost.
British Dictionary definitions for mercenaries


/ˈmɜːsɪnərɪ; -sɪnrɪ/
influenced by greed or desire for gain
of or relating to a mercenary or mercenaries
noun (pl) -naries
a man hired to fight for a foreign army, etc
(rare) any person who works solely for pay
Derived Forms
mercenarily, adverb
mercenariness, 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
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Word Origin and History for mercenaries



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.)).


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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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