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[mer-it] /ˈmɛr ɪt/
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.
Origin of merit
1175-1225; Middle English < Latin meritum act worthy of praise (or blame), noun use of neuter of meritus, past participle of merēre to earn
Related forms
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. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for merits


plural noun
the actual and intrinsic rights and wrongs of an issue, esp in a law case, as distinct from extraneous matters and technicalities
on its merits, on the intrinsic qualities or virtues


worth or superior quality; excellence: work of great merit
(often pl) a deserving or commendable quality or act: judge him on his merits
(Christianity) spiritual credit granted or received for good works
the fact or state of deserving; desert
an obsolete word for reward
verb -its, -iting, -ited
(transitive) to be worthy of; deserve: he merits promotion
See also merits
Derived Forms
merited, adjective
meritless, adjective
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Latin meritum reward, desert, from merēre to deserve
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 merits



c.1200, "spiritual credit" (for good works, etc.); c.1300, "spiritual reward," from Old French merite "wages, pay, reward; thanks; merit, moral worth, that which assures divine pity," and directly from Latin meritum "a merit, service, kindness, benefit, favor; worth, value, importance," neuter of meritus, past participle of merere, meriri "to earn, deserve, acquire, gain," from PIE root *(s)mer- "to allot, assign" (cf. Greek meros "part, lot," moira "share, fate," moros "fate, destiny, doom," Hittite mark "to divide" a sacrifice).

Sense of "worthiness, excellence" is from early 14c.; from late 14c. as "condition or conduct that deserves either reward or punishment;" also "a reward, benefit." Related: Merits. Merit system attested from 1880. Merit-monger was in common use 16c.-17c. in a sense roughly of "do-gooder."


late 15c., "to be entitled to," from Middle French meriter (Modern French mériter), from merite (n.), or directly from Latin meritare "to earn, yield," frequentative of mereri "to earn (money);" also "to serve as a soldier" (see merit (n.)). Related: Merited; meriting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with merits


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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