claim to respect and praise; excellence; worth.
something that deserves or justifies a reward or commendation; a commendable quality, act, etc.: The book's only merit is its sincerity.
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.
Often, merits. the state or fact of deserving; desert: to treat people according to their merits.
Roman Catholic Church. worthiness of spiritual reward, acquired by righteous acts made under the influence of grace.
Obsolete. something that is deserved, whether good or bad.
verb (used with object)
to be worthy of; deserve.
verb (used without object)
Chiefly Theology. to acquire merit.
based on merit: a merit raise of $25 a week.

1175–1225; Middle English < Latin meritum act worthy of praise (or blame), noun use of neuter of meritus, past participle of merēre to earn

meritedly, adverb
meritless, adjective
half-merited, adjective
overmerit, verb
premerit, verb (used with object)
self-merit, noun
unmerited, adjective
unmeritedly, adverb
well-merited, adjective

1. value, credit. Merit, desert, worth refer to the quality in a person, action, or thing that entitles recognition, especially favorable recognition. Merit is usually the excellence that entitles to praise: a person of great merit. Desert is the quality that entitles one to a just reward: according to her deserts. Worth is always used in a favorable sense and signifies inherent value or goodness: The worth of your contribution is incalculable. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
merit (ˈmɛrɪt)
1.  worth or superior quality; excellence: work of great merit
2.  (often plural) a deserving or commendable quality or act: judge 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
vb , -its, -iting, -ited
6.  (tr) to be worthy of; deserve: he merits promotion
[C13: via Old French from Latin meritum reward, desert, from merēre to deserve]

merits (ˈmɛrɪts)
pl n
1.  the actual and intrinsic rights and wrongs of an issue, esp in a law case, as distinct from extraneous matters and technicalities
2.  on its merits on the intrinsic qualities or virtues

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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Word Origin & History

c.1300, from O.Fr. merite, from L. meritum "desert, reward, merit," neut. of meritus, pp. of merere, meriri "to earn, deserve, acquire, gain," from PIE base *(s)mer- "to allot, assign" (cf. Gk. meros "part, lot," moira "share, fate," moros "fate, destiny, doom," Hittite mark "to divide" a sacrifice).
The verb meaning "to be entitled to" is from 1520s, from L. meritare, frequentative of mereri, meant "to earn (money);" also "to serve as a soldier." Related: Merited; merits. Merit-monger was in common use 16c.-17c. in a sense roughly of "do-gooder."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
Don't invite anyone to dismiss it before reading it---truly let it go in for
  evaluation on its own merits.
And some of the anxiety about mining stocks is merely a pretext to preach the
  merits of actively managed funds, with higher fees.
The new interpretation is bound to face a fiery crucible as its merits are
  debated by scientists.
Perhaps this is a relationship that merits more thoughtful exploration.
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