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."