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Favour vs. Mercy: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 25, 2023
Favour is an act of kindness or support, while mercy is compassionate treatment, especially towards those in a weaker position.

Key Differences

A favour typically denotes a specific act of assistance or goodwill one person does for another. In contrast, mercy implies a deeper level of compassion, often shown by someone in a position of power or authority towards another who may be suffering or in a weaker stance.
When someone does you a favour, it could be because you asked for help or because they wanted to be kind without any expectation of reciprocity. Mercy, on the other hand, often carries a sense of withholding punishment or granting relief from suffering, even if it might be deserved.
In social interactions, if you ask someone for a favour, you're requesting their support or assistance in a particular matter. If you plead for mercy, you're seeking leniency or compassion, often in situations of distress or potential harm.
There can be overlaps between the two terms. For instance, granting a favour can be an act of mercy if it relieves hardship. However, not every favour is an act of mercy, as many favours are just benign gestures of goodwill.
The motives behind both can differ. A favour might be done out of friendship, obligation, or goodwill. Mercy, however, usually stems from pity, compassion, or a sense of moral duty.

Comparison Chart


An act of kindness or support.
Compassionate treatment, especially towards the vulnerable.


Assistance or goodwill without necessarily expecting anything in return.
Withholding punishment or offering relief, often unearned.

In Social Context

Requesting support or assistance.
Seeking leniency or compassion in distressing situations.


Can be an act of mercy if relieving hardship.
Not every act of mercy is a favour.


Done out of friendship, obligation, or goodwill.
Stems from pity, compassion, or moral duty.

Favour and Mercy Definitions


Favour is an act of kindness done for someone.
She did me a favour by picking up my mail.


Mercy refers to the power to forgive or be kind.
It's at the judge's mercy to decide the outcome.


Favour can mean to prefer or like more.
I favour chocolate over vanilla.


Mercy can mean a relief from something distressing.
The rain was a mercy after the long drought.


Favour means supporting or approving something.
The judge ruled in favour of the plaintiff.


Mercy is the act of showing compassion or leniency.
The ruler showed mercy and pardoned the prisoner.


Favour can refer to a gift or token of appreciation.
The guests received party favours at the end of the event.


Mercy denotes a disposition to be compassionate.
She approached every situation with mercy and understanding.


Favour can denote a state of being approved or preferred.
The new proposal found favour among the committee members.


Mercy can be a blessing or a fortunate occurrence.
It's a mercy that no one was hurt in the accident.


Variant of favor.


Compassionate treatment, especially of those under one's power; clemency.


Is mercy always deserved?

No, mercy often involves leniency or relief even when it might not be deserved.

What does mercy imply?

Mercy implies compassionate treatment, especially towards the vulnerable.

Can you do a favour out of mercy?

Yes, if the favour relieves hardship or suffering, it can be seen as an act of mercy.

What is a favour?

A favour is an act of kindness or support done for someone.

Can a favour be done without expectation?

Yes, many favours are done without expecting anything in return.

Is showing mercy a sign of weakness?

No, showing mercy often requires strength and moral integrity.

Can businesses do favours for their customers?

Yes, like providing discounts or extra services as gestures of goodwill.

How is favour used in legal contexts?

In legal contexts, "in favour of" means to support or approve, like a judgment in someone's favour.

Is showing mercy always the right choice?

It depends on the situation and ethical perspectives. Sometimes, justice or safety might outweigh mercy.

Why might someone deny a favour?

Reasons could include personal inability, a belief it's not in the requester's best interest, or potential conflicts.

Is seeking mercy a sign of guilt?

Not necessarily. One might seek mercy due to fear, desperation, or a genuine sense of remorse.

Can a judge show mercy?

Yes, a judge can show mercy by offering leniency in sentencing or judgments.

Can mercy be a sign of moral strength?

Yes, offering mercy, especially when having the power to punish, often shows moral fortitude.

Is mercy solely a religious concept?

While prevalent in religious texts, mercy is also a secular moral and ethical principle.

Can you "curry favour"?

Yes, "curry favour" means to seek to gain favour through flattery or attention.

Can you do a favour in return for a past one?

Yes, reciprocating favours is common in social exchanges.

Do all cultures view favours similarly?

No, cultural norms can shape how favours are given, received, and perceived.

Is a favour always a positive gesture?

Generally, yes, but favours can sometimes come with hidden motives or unintended consequences.

Can mercy lead to forgiveness?

Often, yes. Mercy can pave the way for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Can mercy influence societal change?

Yes, widespread acts of mercy can promote compassion, understanding, and positive change in societies.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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