at_the_mercy_of

World English Dictionary
mercy (ˈmɜːsɪ)
 
n , pl -cies
1.  compassionate treatment of or attitude towards an offender, adversary, etc, who is in one's power or care; clemency; pity
2.  the power to show mercy: to throw oneself on someone's mercy
3.  a relieving or welcome occurrence or state of affairs: his death was a mercy after weeks of pain
4.  at the mercy of in the power of
 
[C12: from Old French, from Latin mercēs wages, recompense, price, from merx goods]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

mercy
late 12c., "God's forgiveness of his creatures' offenses," from O.Fr. mercit, merci "reward, gift, kindness," from L. mercedem (nom. merces) "reward, wages, hire" (in V.L. "favor, pity"), from merx (gen. mercis) "wares, merchandise." In Church L. (6c.) applied to the heavenly reward of those who show
kindness to the helpless. Meaning "disposition to forgive or show compassion" is attested from early 13c. As an interjection, attested from mid-13c. In French largely superseded by miséricorde except as a word of thanks. Seat of mercy "golden covering of the Ark of the Covenant" (1530) is Tyndale's loan-translation of Luther's gnadenstuhl, an inexact rendering of Heb. kapporeth, lit. "propitiatory."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Easton
Bible Dictionary

Mercy definition


compassion for the miserable. Its object is misery. By the atoning sacrifice of Christ a way is open for the exercise of mercy towards the sons of men, in harmony with the demands of truth and righteousness (Gen. 19:19; Ex. 20:6; 34:6, 7; Ps. 85:10; 86:15, 16). In Christ mercy and truth meet together. Mercy is also a Christian grace (Matt. 5:7; 18:33-35).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

at the mercy of

  1. Also, . Subject to the power of, helpless against, as in The captured rebels were at the mercy of the army commander. [Late 1500s]

  2. Without any protection against, as in On top of Mount Washington we were at the mercy of the elements. [Late 1600s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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