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Pronunciation: klem-ên-see Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Leniency, mercy, gentleness of temper, or an act of such. 2. (Law) A reprieve, an act short of a pardon by which a crime itself is not pardoned but recorded though the sentence for it is removed or reduced to time served or parole. 3. Mildness, moderation, especially of weather.

Notes: This noun was made from the adjective, clement "lenient, merciful; mild, moderate (weather)", which comes with a more familiar negative pal, inclement, as 'inclement weather'. Clemently is the adverb. Clemence was the preferable form in the 15th and 16th centuries.

In Play: Clemency is a near synonym of mercy: "During the sentencing phase of his trial for murdering his parents, Izzy Badenoff pleaded for clemency because he was an orphan." Few of us if any associate this word with inclement: "The 'clemency' of the weather after a hurricane is always a day or two of heavy rain."

Word History: Today's Good Word entered English from French clémence "indulgence, mildness", inherited from Latin clementia "calmness, gentleness", the noun for clemen(t)s "calm, gentle", an adjective from the verb clinare "to lean". The leap from "to lean" to "disposed favorably" is the same as the English sense of inclined making the same move. Clemence is a combination of the combining form of clin- "to lean" + -ment "mind, mental, attitude". Clin- was made from PIE k'lei- "to tip, incline, lean", source also of Sanskrit srayati "leans, inclines", Greek klinein "to tilt, lean", Lithuanian šlieti "to lean, adjoin", and English lean ([k] > [h] > nothing). Ment- was inherited from PIE men- "to think, mind, spirit", also underlying Sanskrit manyate "thinks", Lithuanian mintis "thought", Russian mnenie "opinion", Polish mniemanie "opinion", and the borrowed English suffix -ment. (Now an e-ovation for grandmaster of suggestions William Hupy for spotting the twists and turns in the character of this word and sharing them with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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