mercenary


mercenary
mercenary adj Mercenary, hireling, venal, hack are comparable though not closely synonymous terms when they are applied to persons, or their acts, services, or products with the meaning actuated or motivated chiefly by a desire for profit.
Mercenary stresses self-interest and often self-seeking as the guiding motive; it usually, except when applied to soldiers who serve a foreign power for a wage, applies to persons or services that should be prompted by altruism or by noble aims or should be characterized by unselfishness or selflessness
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the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint— Dickens

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if a writer's attitude toward his characters and his scene is as vulgar as a showman's, as mercenary as an auctioneer's, vulgar and meretricious will his product for ever remain— Cather

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Hireling suggests the attitude of one who serves for the wage involved or is guided by servile motives; the term usually, especially in its more common opprobrious use, implies a motive no higher than that of the reward promised or foreseen
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prostituted muse and hireling bard— Byron

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the Quaker was a mystic . . . who denied the Scriptural validity of a Hebraized Calvinism and a hireling priesthood— Parrington

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Venal implies purchasability
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his initiation to venal love is sordid and mournful— Peyre

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The term often connotes the use of bribery and nearly always carries a strong implication of corruption or of corruptibility
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venal politicians

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venal members of the ill-paid police force discovered in opium a perquisite much greater than the customary squeeze— Berrigan

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women can take many forms . . . this gift for metamorphosis could be used to further all kinds of venal and petty schemes— Cheever

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Hack is used of a person, or of the work of such a person, willing to forfeit freedom of action and initiative or personal and professional integrity in return for an assured reward (as regular wages or political spoils). The term (and especially its corresponding noun hack) commonly combines some of the implications of mercenary and venal, like the former it implies self-interest and like the latter corruptibility. Distinctively, hack regularly stresses the mediocre and uninspired quality of the person or his work and may imply a background of previous professional failure or inherent low order of ability
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his voice had all the mechanical solicitude for unimportant facts common to a hack policeman anywhere in the world— MacLennan

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like a hack politician fighting the winged aggressor with yesterday's magic coat of ragged words— MacNeice

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some of the novels . . . were very good, some were so-so, some mere hack work— Hass

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the official Soviet histories and monographs, justly denounced ... as crude travesties executed by official hacks and sycophants— Times Lit. Sup.

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Analogous words: abject, *mean, sordid, ignoble: *covetous, greedy, acquisitive, grasping, avaricious: debased, corrupt, corrupted, depraved (see under DEBASE)

New Dictionary of Synonyms. 2014.

Synonyms:

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Mercenary — Mer ce*na*ry, a. [OE. mercenarie, F. mercenaire, fr. L. mercenarius, fr. merces wages, reward. See {Mercy}.] 1. Acting for reward; serving for pay; paid; hired; hireling; venal; as, mercenary soldiers. [1913 Webster] 2. Hence: Moved primarily by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • mercenary — [adj] greedy for money acquisitive, avaricious, bribable, corrupt, covetous, grabby, grasping, miserly, money grubbing, selfish, sordid, stingy, unethical, unprincipled, unscrupulous, venal; concept 401 Ant. generous, unselfish mercenary [n]… …   New thesaurus

  • Mercenary — Mer ce*na*ry, n.; pl. {Mercenaries}. One who is hired; a hireling; especially, a soldier hired into foreign service. Milman. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • mercenary — I adjective accessible to bribery, acquisitive, avaricious, bribable, conductus, corrupt, corruptible, covetous, exacting, exploitative, grasping, greedy, hired, hireling, leased, materialistic, mercenarius, money conscious, money hungry,… …   Law dictionary

  • mercenary — ► ADJECTIVE ▪ motivated chiefly by the desire for gain. ► NOUN (pl. mercenaries) ▪ a professional soldier hired to serve in a foreign army. ORIGIN from Latin mercenarius hireling , from merces reward …   English terms dictionary

  • mercenary — [mʉr′sə ner΄ē] adj. [L mercenarius < merces, pay, wages, akin to merx: see MARKET] 1. working or done for payment only; motivated by a desire for money or other gain; venal; greedy 2. designating a soldier serving for pay in a foreign army;… …   English World dictionary

  • Mercenary — For other uses, see Mercenary (disambiguation). Leonardo da Vinci s Il Condottieri, 1480. Condottieri being the Late Middle Age Through Renaissance term for Mercenary soldier leader(s) in Italian. A Mercenary, also known as a professional soldier …   Wikipedia


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