Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of clemency

Related terms

Definition of clemency


    From Latin clementia.


  • (UK) IPA: /ˈklɛm.ə
  • (US) IPA: /ˈklɛm.ə, /ˈklɛm.ə


clemency (usually uncountable; plural clemencies)

  1. The gentle or kind exercise of power; leniency, mercy; compassion in judging or punishing.

    * 2010, Priyamvada Gopal, The Guardian, 4 May 2010:
    A death sentence for Kasab, seen to represent Pakistan, will be widely supported in a frenzy of righteous retribution. Presidential clemency is politically improbable.

Further reading

Clemency means the forgiveness of a crime or the cancellation (in whole or in part) of the penalty associated with it. It is a general concept that encompasses several related procedures: pardoning, commutation, remission and reprieves. A pardon is the forgiveness of a crime and the cancellation of the relevant penalty; it is usually granted by a head of state (such as a monarch or president) or by a competent church authority. Commutation or remission is the lessening of a penalty without forgiveness for the crime; the beneficiary is still considered guilty of the offense. A reprieve is the temporary postponement of punishment.

Today, pardons are granted in many countries when individuals have demonstrated that they have fulfilled their debt to society, or are otherwise considered to be deserving. Pardons are sometimes offered to persons who claim they have been wrongfully convicted. Some believe accepting such a pardon implicitly constitutes an admission of guilt, so in some cases the offer is refused. (Cases of wrongful conviction are nowadays more often dealt with by appeal than by pardon). Clemency plays a very important role when capital punishment is applied.

This term differs subtly from country-to-country, but generally:

Clemency: Catch-all term for all of the above, or just referring to amnesty and pardons.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     scienter
2.     quorum
3.     AORO
4.     Miranda warning
5.     adjudication order
6.     lex causae
7.     appellant
8.     stare decisis
9.     lex situs
10.     lex patriae