The word “mercy” is gaining more and more currency in Christianity these days. It has long been a favorite word of LMCS president Matthew Harrison, and, more recently, of Pope Francis. Kory Stamper, a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster dictionary, gives its history after the jump.
Originally, “mercy” meant clemency for an offender. The word came from the same root a “merchandise,” referring to a “payment.” So a plea for mercy meant that “the object of mercy was not deserving of compassion, that the party showing mercy was literally bearing the cost of the crime or debt on themselves.” That is to say, the word “mercy” was all about the gospel.
Later, the term began to be used for compassion to any one in need. But the gospel, enshrined in the very etymology of the word, applies there too. [Read more…]