Words related to *(s)mer-
late 14c., "that which is censurable, wrong-doing, an offense, a crime," from Old French desmerite "blame, demerit" (Modern French démérite), from des- "not, opposite" (see dis-) + merite "merit" (see merit (n.)) or from Latin demeritum "fault," from past-participle stem of demereri "to merit, deserve," from de- in its completive sense.
Both senses, "that which one deserves," whether good or bad, existed in the French and Middle English words. The positive sense in English faded mid-17c. Meaning "penalty point in school" is by 1862, short for demerit mark.
"having served out one's time, having done sufficient service," c. 1600, from Latin emeritus "veteran soldier who has served his time," noun use of adjective meaning literally "that has finished work, past service," past participle of emerere "serve out, complete one's service," from assimilated form of ex "out" (see ex-) + merere "to serve, earn," from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something." First used of retired professors 1794 in American English.
"pertaining to or characterized by isomerism," 1831, from German isomerisch (Berzelius, 1831, in a paper on the "Composition of the Tartaric and Paratartaric Racemic Acids"), from Greek isomeres "sharing equality, having equal parts or shares," from iso- "equal" (see iso-) + meros "part, share" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). Isomerous is from 1845 in botany, 1840 in chemistry.
1620s, "pertaining to harlots," from Latin meretricius "of or pertaining to prostitutes," from meretrix (genitive meretricis) "prostitute," literally "woman who earns money," from merere, mereri "to earn, gain" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). Meaning "gaudily alluring, alluring by false attractions" is from 1630s. Related: Meretriciously; meretriciousness.
1894 in the biological sense "repetition of parts in living things;" earlier in rhetoric, "synecdoche in which totality is expressed by contrasting parts" (such as high and low, young and old); from Modern Latin merismus, from Greek merismos "a dividing, division, a partition," from merizein "to divide," from meros "a part, a share" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). Related: Meristic. Merismatic "dividing by the formation of internal partitions" is attested by 1849.
"growing cellular tissues of plants, actively dividing cell tissue," 1862, formed irregularly from Greek meristos "divided, divisible" (verbal adjective from merizein "to divide, distribute," from meros "a part, a share;" from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something") + ending from xylem, etc. Related: Meristematic.
c. 1200, "spiritual credit" (for good works, etc.); c. 1300, "spiritual reward," from Old French merite "wages, pay, reward; thanks; merit, moral worth, that which assures divine pity" (12c.) and directly from Latin meritum "a merit, service, kindness, benefit, favor; worth, value, importance," neuter of meritus, past participle of merere, mereri "to earn, deserve, acquire, gain," from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something."
Sense of "worthiness, excellence," is from early 14c.; from late 14c. as "state or fact of deserving, condition or conduct that deserves either reward or punishment;" also "a reward, benefit." Etymologically it is merely "that which one deserves," and the Latin word was used of rewards or punishments, but in English it has typically meant "state or fact of deserving well."
Merits, in law, is "the right and wrong of the case, essential facts and principles" (as distinguished from questions of procedure, etc.). In civil service promotion, the merit system is attested by 1880 (opposed to the spoils system); the phrase was used earlier in other contexts. Merit-monger (1550s, Latimer) was a common 16c.-17c. term of theological contempt for one who believes that human merit entitles man to divine rewards.
early 15c., "deserving of divine grace," from Latin meritorius "that for which money is paid, that by which money is earned," from meritus, past participle of merere "to earn" (from PIE root *(s)mer- (2) "to get a share of something"). From late 15c. (Caxton) as "deserving of reward, worthy of praise or honor." Related: Meritoriously; meritoriousness.