Definition of mercenary in English:



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

    ‘she's nothing but a mercenary little gold-digger’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It'll probably be merchandised like hell, but it definitely feels less mercenary than a lot of other children's entertainment.’
    • ‘In his writing on India, Marx shows himself under no illusions concerning the brutal and mercenary nature of British rule.’
    • ‘She married him for purely mercenary reasons because she was a single mother with no means of support.’
    • ‘These cameras may have been launched with improved road safety in mind but they've been hijacked for mercenary reasons.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When the public purse snapped shut, they resorted to ever more mercenary ways of earning a crust.’
    • ‘And yet their aims are no less self-serving and their interests no less mercenary than those of any other union.’
    • ‘Not unconnected with these two mercenary characters are the Cohens, the family with whom the saintly Mordecai lodges.’
    • ‘An investor is very much afraid of the slow and mercenary courts, and of the factors of corruption and crime.’
    • ‘Canadians, I truly believe, are not mercenary beings.’
    • ‘Talk about good times for it's mercenary culture.’
    • ‘You know, these men are over there and women are over there as volunteers, but they're not over there as mercenary volunteers.’
    • ‘We positively celebrate mercenary motives these days in most areas of life.’
    • ‘I don't mean to mischaracterize what you're saying, but it makes it sound like Americans are very mercenary.’
    • ‘But not before John had his fill of mercenary musicianship.’
    • ‘In case that sounds completely mercenary he's also an old friend, and it would be good to see him again.’
    • ‘They are both mercenary worlds where relationships are only relative to the next rung on the ladder of success.’
    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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘He became a professional soldier, a mercenary, fighting wars and killing people and being completely detached from it all.’
    • ‘My father had no time for Ansgar, just because he had been a mercenary and a common soldier.’
    • ‘In addition, she keeps a small army of mercenaries and slaves to be activated whenever she sees fit.’
    • ‘Being in the Army, the mercenary had maps of every conceivable place on the planet.’
    • ‘Machiavelli goes on to specify that armies are basically of two types: hired mercenaries and citizen militias.’
    • ‘Is the Pentagon privatizing the military or is it simply hiring mercenaries?’
    • ‘No doubt the bowman is a mercenary hired by my former Sergeant-of-Arms.’
    • ‘Before he fell, he raised the grenade launcher and pointed it at the small army of mercenaries and undead.’
    • ‘Unlike mercenaries, soldiers need to know when they go to battle that they are going there for a purpose.’
    • ‘Instead, they massed a large army, hired mercenaries, and attacked both places at once.’
    • ‘Six years ago, he became a mercenary for a private military corporation.’
    • ‘I am placing an ad in Soldier of Fortune magazine to hire a mercenary to kill me at this very moment.’
    • ‘Third, there is also a potential continuing supply of mercenaries as regular soldiers are demobilized.’
    • ‘It is hard to believe that the country would hire foreign mercenaries for military and daily operations.’
    • ‘The player is always a soldier, a mercenary on the player's base.’
    • ‘For the most part, when war was deemed necessary they hired mercenaries to do the fighting.’
    • ‘The profession of mercenary is one of the oldest in the world.’
    • ‘In 1640, he inherited an army made up of mercenaries who lacked loyalty in the best of times.’
    soldier of fortune, professional soldier, hired soldier, hireling
    private army
    merc, hired gun
    freelance, condottiere
    adventurer, lance-knight
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    1. 1.1 A person primarily motivated by personal gain:
      ‘cricket's most infamous mercenary’
      • ‘I enjoy being totally mercenary about supporting people I like in print.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Richardson pits this code explicitly against Matilda's nefarious campaign to sign Gerald on as her personal mercenary.’
      • ‘The first, clause 7, relates to recruiting a person to be a mercenary, and I guess that is something.’
      • ‘Critics called him mercenary and his unhurried, self-possessed manner could make him unfathomable.’
      • ‘In these games you play as Bolton on a world tour as a mercenary for hire.’
      • ‘They are political mercenaries, hired because they can keep ministers at arms' length from the media and the less savoury side of politics.’
      • ‘Moving from project to project, workers will become intellectual mercenaries.’
      • ‘NZPundit seems to think that my comments on mercenaries apply to people like this man.’
      • ‘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.