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," and directly from Latin meritum "a merit, service, kindness, benefit, favor; worth, value, importance," neuter of meritus, past participle of merere, meriri "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 "condition or conduct that deserves either reward or punishment;" also "a reward, benefit." Related: Merits. Merit system attested from 1880. Merit-monger was in common use 16c.-17c. in a sense roughly of "do-gooder."
late 15c., "to be entitled to," from Middle French meriter (Modern French mériter), from merite (n.), or directly from Latin meritare "to earn, yield," frequentative of merere, mereri "to earn (money);" also "to serve as a soldier" (see merit (n.)). Related: Merited; meriting.
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