What word or phrase does your mother always say?


[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.
Cite This Source
Examples from the web for mercenary
  • He shall be mercenary, and she shall be foolish.
  • But creating marketplaces of mercenary intelligences is genuinely novel.
  • His reasons were political, I believe, and not just mercenary.
  • While this may sound a bit mercenary, it's a serious question.
  • When it comes to souvenirs, rented transportation and mercenary guides, it appears there really is nothing new under the sun.
  • Along the way, mercenary freelancers get to meet interesting people.
  • That is infidelity, that is mercenary, and worse still.
  • They served mostly as mercenary agents of espionage and as spies.
  • This was in one of the comments to the academic mercenary's column.
  • He continued that employment for the space of five years, being daily useful, and not mercenary to his friend.
British Dictionary definitions for mercenary


/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
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for mercenary

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
Cite This Source

Word of the Day

Difficulty index for mercenary

Some English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for mercenary

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with mercenary