Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
August 22nd, 2016
Episode 624 of 797 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for August 22, 2016 is: lenient \LEEN-yunt\ adjective 1 : exerting a soothing or easing influence : relieving pain or stress 2 : of mild and tolerant disposition; especially : indulgent Examples: Because Kevin didn't have any past violations on his driving record, the officer decided to be lenient and let him off with a written warning. "In February, he pleaded guilty to a bribery count and a tax count. His attorney … has said federal prosecutors have recommended a lenient sentence in exchange for his cooperation." — Jimmie E. Gates, The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi), 18 July 2016 Did you know? Lenient is a word with a soothing history. It derives from the Latin verb lenire, meaning "to soothe" or "to soften" (itself from lenis, meaning "soft or mild"). The first, now archaic, sense of lenient referred to something soothing that relieved pain and stress. That meaning was shared by lenitive, an earlier derivative of lenire that was commonly used with electuary (a "lenitive electuary" being a medicated paste prepared with honey or another sweet and used by veterinarians to alleviate pain in the mouth). Linguists also borrowed lenis to describe speech sounds that are softened—for instance, the "t" sound in gutter is lenis. By way of comparison, the "t" sound in toe is fortis.