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verb re·prieve \ri-ˈprēv\

Simple Definition of reprieve

  • : to delay the punishment of (someone, such as a prisoner who is sentenced to death)

  • : to prevent (something) from being closed, destroyed, etc., for a period of time

Full Definition of reprieve


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to delay the punishment of (as a condemned prisoner)

  3. 2 :  to give relief or deliverance to for a time

Examples of reprieve

  1. And many murderers have been reprieved because they were condemned for the wrong murder, quite probably just as many as have been executed for the only murder they did not in fact commit. —Christopher Hitchens, Nation, 14 May 2001

  2. In a postscript to the very same letter, he added, ‘If he must die, it were charity to reprieve him till Saturday.’ If there had been any doubt of his fate, this weakness and meanness would have settled it. The very next day, which was the twelfth of May, he was brought out to be beheaded on Tower Hill. —Charles Dickens, A Child's History of England, 1854

  3. He was sentenced to death but then reprieved.

  4. The library has been reprieved and will remain open for at least another year.

Origin of reprieve

probably blend of obsolete repreve to reprove (from Middle English) and obsolete repry to remand, postpone, from Anglo-French repri-, past stem of reprendre to take back

First Known Use: 1596



noun re·prieve \ri-ˈprēv\

Simple Definition of reprieve

  • : an official order that delays the punishment of a prisoner who is sentenced to death

  • : a delay that keeps something bad from happening

  • : a period of relief from pain, trouble, etc.

Full Definition of reprieve

  1. 1 a :  the act of reprieving (see 1reprieve):  the state of being reprieved b :  a formal temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence especially of death

  2. 2 :  an order or warrant for a temporary suspension of the execution of a sentence

  3. 3 :  a temporary respite (as from pain or trouble)

Examples of reprieve

  1. In Baghdad, you learn to savor small pleasures. When the weather turned unexpectedly cool one recent evening … , people emptied out of their houses, braving the ever present threat of violence in order to enjoy a brief reprieve from the heat. —Aparisim Ghosh, Time, 11 July 2005

  2. Six days later Captain Dufranne announced that they would sail early on the morrow. Jane would have begged for a further reprieve, had it not been that she too had begun to believe that her forest lover would return no more. —Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes, 1914

  3. It may be, on the other hand, that the destruction of the Martians is only a reprieve. To them, and not to us, perhaps, is the future ordained. —H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, 1898

  4. That he did not regard it as a desperate case, that he did not say a few hours must end it, was at first felt, beyond the hope of most; and the ecstasy of such a reprieve, the rejoicing, deep and silent, after a few fervent ejaculations of gratitude to Heaven had been offered, may be conceived. —Jane Austen, Persuasion, 1817

  5. Death, that inexorable judge, had passed sentence on him, and refused to grant him a reprieve, though two doctors who arrived, and were fee'd at one and the same instant, were his counsel. —Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, 1749

  6. They wanted to close the library, but we managed to get a reprieve for it.

  7. This warm spell has given us a reprieve from the winter cold.

Origin of reprieve

(see 1reprieve)

First Known Use: 1592

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February 7, 2016

a slight offense

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