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[lee-nee-uh nt, leen-yuh nt] /ˈli ni ənt, ˈlin yənt/
agreeably tolerant; permissive; indulgent:
He tended to be lenient toward the children. More lenient laws encouraged greater freedom of expression.
Archaic. softening, soothing, or alleviative.
Origin of lenient
1645-55; < Latin lēnient- (stem of lēniēns), present participle of lēnīre to soften, alleviate, soothe. See lenis, -ent
Related forms
leniently, adverb
superlenient, adjective
superleniently, adverb
unlenient, adjective
unleniently, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for lenient
  • Bosses are going to be much more likely to be lenient to workers they already value than ones that annoy them.
  • Some are strict, some are lenient, and some are anywhere in between.
  • State policies vary greatly, with some much more lenient than others.
  • Even more important, prosecutors have the right to ask for lenient sentences when the accused has been especially co-operative.
  • Han used a lenient training regime to train these engineered mice to fear a specific sound.
  • They frowned more strongly upon speeding, tax-dodging or keeping stolen goods, but were more lenient about doing it themselves.
  • Prosecutors also appealed, saying the sentence was too lenient.
  • He called it too lenient on the work requirement and overly generous in its benefits.
  • The lenient shepherd may find his flock unruly, defiant.
  • Neither do those who think the answer to our prison problems is to become lenient on hardened criminals.
British Dictionary definitions for lenient


showing or characterized by mercy or tolerance
(archaic) caressing or soothing
Derived Forms
leniency, lenience, noun
leniently, adverb
Word Origin
C17: from Latin lēnīre to soothe, from lēnis soft
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 lenient

1650s, "relaxing, soothing," from Middle French lenient, from Latin lenientem (nominative leniens), present participle of lenire "to soften, alleviate, mitigate, allay, calm," from lenis "mild, gentle, calm," probably from PIE root *le- "to leave, yield, let go, slacken" (cf. Lithuanian lenas "quiet, tranquil, tame, slow," Old Church Slavonic lena "lazy," Latin lassus "faint, weary," Old English læt "sluggish, slow," lætan "to leave behind"). Sense of "mild, merciful" (of persons) first recorded 1787. In earlier use was lenitive, attested from early 15c. of medicines, 1610s of persons.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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