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verb ex·on·er·ate \ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt, eg-\

Simple Definition of exonerate

  • : to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime or responsible for a problem, bad situation, etc.

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of exonerate



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship

  3. 2 :  to clear from accusation or blame


play \-ˌzä-nə-ˈrā-shən\ noun


play \-ˈzä-nə-ˌrā-tiv\ adjective

Examples of exonerate in a sentence

  1. <the results of the DNA fingerprinting finally exonerated the man, but only after he had wasted 10 years of his life in prison>

Did You Know?

Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden." (Onus itself lives on with that meaning in English.) In its earliest uses (dating from the 16th century), exonerate was used in the context of physical burdens - a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."

Origin and Etymology of exonerate

Middle English, from Latin exoneratus, past participle of exonerare to unburden, from ex- + oner-, onus load

First Known Use: 1524

Synonym Discussion of exonerate

exculpate, absolve, exonerate, acquit, vindicate mean to free from a charge. exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault often in a matter of small importance <exculpating himself from the charge of overenthusiasm>. absolve implies a release either from an obligation that binds the conscience or from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin <cannot be absolved of blame>. exonerate implies a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any attendant suspicion of blame or guilt <exonerated by the investigation>. acquit implies a formal decision in one's favor with respect to a definite charge <voted to acquit the defendant>. vindicate may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly, and implies a clearing effected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame <her judgment was vindicated>.

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ex·on·er·ate \ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt, eg-\

Legal Definition of exonerate



  1. 1 :  to relieve especially of a charge, obligation, or hardship

  2. 2 :  to clear from accusation or blame — compare acquit, exculpate

Origin and Etymology of exonerate

Latin exonerare to relieve, free, discharge, from ex- out + onerare to burden, from oner-, onus load

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