A mercenary is a soldier for hire, as opposed to a soldier enlisted in the armed forces of a sovereign state. He or she takes part in armed conflict on many different scales, and is "motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party" A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he gets remuneration for his service.
As a result of the assumption that a mercenary is essentially motivated by money, the term "mercenary" usually carries negative connotations, though that can be a compliment in some contexts. There is a blur in the distinction between a "mercenary" and a "foreign volunteer", when the primary motive of a soldier in a foreign army is uncertain. For instance, the French Foreign Legion and the Gurkhas are not mercenaries under the laws of war, although some journalists describe them as mercenaries regardless.