ab·​so·​lu·​tion ˌab-sə-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce absolution (audio)
: the act of forgiving someone for having done something wrong or sinful : the act of absolving someone or the state of being absolved
specifically : a remission of sins pronounced by a priest (as in the sacrament of reconciliation)
The rite of confessing one's sins to a priest and receiving absolution … is also recognized as a sacrament in the Anglican and Orthodox Christian traditions. Peter Steinfels

Did you know?

Since the Latin absolutus meant "set free", it's easy to see how absolution came to mean "set free from sin". (And also easy to see why absolute means basically "pure"—that is, originally, "free of sin".) The verb for absolution is absolve. Just as a priest absolves believers of their sins, you may absolve your brother of blame for a household disaster, or you yourself may in time be absolved for that scrape on the car backing out of a parking space.

Examples of absolution in a Sentence

He asked the priest to give him absolution for his sins. the jury's verdict of “not guilty” was absolution in the eyes of the law, but the verdict would always be “guilty” in the court of public opinion
Recent Examples on the Web Brian asked, looking at his son, hoping for absolution. Eli Saslow Erin Schaff, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2023 Sometimes knowing what’s the right thing to do is impossible, and so is absolution. Heller McAlpin, The Christian Science Monitor, 1 Nov. 2023 The show is a ruthless evisceration of hollow progressive altruism, of performative compassion exercised to make money or seek absolution for other sins. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 Nov. 2023 One delegate told a story of a woman who died by suicide after failing to obtain church absolution for being bisexual. Stefano Pitrelli, Washington Post, 28 Oct. 2023 Moral absolution has become an essential component of consumerism in 2023 — touting the green qualities of a product, or the race or gender of the object’s creator, to comfort a shopper. Rachel Tashjian, Washington Post, 8 Aug. 2023 Barry has spent the entire series chasing absolution without true accountability. Alison Herman, Variety, 13 Apr. 2023 For all of its disdain for environmentalists, the industry needs green consumers who seek absolution for their carbon-intensive ways of life. Longreads, 14 July 2023 No less searing is Branigan’s dissection of their sometimes flawed attempts at personal absolution. Mary Gallagher, Foreign Affairs, 20 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'absolution.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English absoluciun, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin absolūtiōn-, absolūtiō "completion, acquittal, release," from absolū- (stem, before consonants, of absolvere "to set free, acquit, finish") + -tiōn-, -tiō suffix of action nouns — more at absolve

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of absolution was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near absolution

Cite this Entry

“Absolution.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absolution. Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


ab·​so·​lu·​tion ˌab-sə-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce absolution (audio)
: the act of absolving
especially : a forgiving of sins

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