Definition of mercenary in English:



  • Primarily concerned with making money at the expense of ethics.

    ‘she's nothing but a mercenary little gold-digger’
    • ‘In case that sounds completely mercenary he's also an old friend, and it would be good to see him again.’
    • ‘I decided I couldn't be pressed like this, the third job involved no relocation and would be better for my CV, if you want to look at it in purely mercenary terms.’
    • ‘These cameras may have been launched with improved road safety in mind but they've been hijacked for mercenary reasons.’
    • ‘In his writing on India, Marx shows himself under no illusions concerning the brutal and mercenary nature of British rule.’
    • ‘It becomes an authentic spiritual experience only if it is totally free from selfish and mercenary interests on the part of those who facilitate it.’
    • ‘They are both mercenary worlds where relationships are only relative to the next rung on the ladder of success.’
    • ‘We positively celebrate mercenary motives these days in most areas of life.’
    • ‘Talk about good times for it's mercenary culture.’
    • ‘It'll probably be merchandised like hell, but it definitely feels less mercenary than a lot of other children's entertainment.’
    • ‘When the public purse snapped shut, they resorted to ever more mercenary ways of earning a crust.’
    • ‘Not unconnected with these two mercenary characters are the Cohens, the family with whom the saintly Mordecai lodges.’
    • ‘But in this day and age, with so many mercenary lawyers around, talking libel and slander, you cannot even speak ill of the living without caution.’
    • ‘Canadians, I truly believe, are not mercenary beings.’
    • ‘An investor is very much afraid of the slow and mercenary courts, and of the factors of corruption and crime.’
    • ‘You know, these men are over there and women are over there as volunteers, but they're not over there as mercenary volunteers.’
    • ‘She married him for purely mercenary reasons because she was a single mother with no means of support.’
    • ‘I don't mean to mischaracterize what you're saying, but it makes it sound like Americans are very mercenary.’
    • ‘And yet their aims are no less self-serving and their interests no less mercenary than those of any other union.’
    • ‘But not before John had his fill of mercenary musicianship.’
    • ‘Even in this mercenary age, with the entire football agenda being driven by money, that might be too much for the clubs concerned to contemplate.’
    money-oriented, grasping, greedy, acquisitive, avaricious, covetous, rapacious, bribable, venal, materialistic
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  • 1A professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army.

    ‘he had planned to seize power with the aid of a group of mercenaries’
    • ‘Machiavelli goes on to specify that armies are basically of two types: hired mercenaries and citizen militias.’
    • ‘Both risings were put down later in the summer, the royal forces being augmented by foreign mercenaries gathered for war against the Scots.’
    • ‘She was a soldier, a mercenary, a spy on a mission to save the world.’
    • ‘The player is always a soldier, a mercenary on the player's base.’
    • ‘In addition, she keeps a small army of mercenaries and slaves to be activated whenever she sees fit.’
    • ‘He became a professional soldier, a mercenary, fighting wars and killing people and being completely detached from it all.’
    • ‘Unlike mercenaries, soldiers need to know when they go to battle that they are going there for a purpose.’
    • ‘Before he fell, he raised the grenade launcher and pointed it at the small army of mercenaries and undead.’
    • ‘For the most part, when war was deemed necessary they hired mercenaries to do the fighting.’
    • ‘My father had no time for Ansgar, just because he had been a mercenary and a common soldier.’
    • ‘In 1640, he inherited an army made up of mercenaries who lacked loyalty in the best of times.’
    • ‘Is the Pentagon privatizing the military or is it simply hiring mercenaries?’
    • ‘Third, there is also a potential continuing supply of mercenaries as regular soldiers are demobilized.’
    • ‘The profession of mercenary is one of the oldest in the world.’
    • ‘I am placing an ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine to hire a mercenary to kill me at this very moment.’
    • ‘Six years ago, he became a mercenary for a private military corporation.’
    • ‘No doubt the bowman is a mercenary hired by my former Sergeant-of-Arms.’
    • ‘Being in the Army, the mercenary had maps of every conceivable place on the planet.’
    • ‘It is hard to believe that the country would hire foreign mercenaries for military and daily operations.’
    • ‘Instead, they massed a large army, hired mercenaries, and attacked both places at once.’
    soldier of fortune, professional soldier, hired soldier, hireling
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    1. 1.1 A person primarily motivated by personal gain.
      ‘cricket's most infamous mercenary’
      • ‘Critics called him mercenary and his unhurried, self-possessed manner could make him unfathomable.’
      • ‘Richardson pits this code explicitly against Matilda's nefarious campaign to sign Gerald on as her personal mercenary.’
      • ‘Last Wednesday demonstrated that we have gone beyond the problems posed by the West Lothian Question proper and are now confronted by a contingent of rogue MPs who are as mercenary as they are unaccountable.’
      • ‘I enjoy being totally mercenary about supporting people I like in print.’
      • ‘In these games you play as Bolton on a world tour as a mercenary for hire.’
      • ‘Moving from project to project, workers will become intellectual mercenaries.’
      • ‘The first, clause 7, relates to recruiting a person to be a mercenary, and I guess that is something.’
      • ‘NZPundit seems to think that my comments on mercenaries apply to people like this man.’
      • ‘They are political mercenaries, hired because they can keep ministers at arms' length from the media and the less savoury side of politics.’
      • ‘So right now I have to get the Aberdeen team playing a lot better than they are now, stay around for a while and show that I am a rugby person, and not a mercenary.’


Late Middle English (as a noun): from Latin mercenarius ‘hireling’, from merces, merced- ‘reward’.