ab·​so·​lu·​tion | \ ˌab-sə-ˈlü-shən How to pronounce absolution (audio) \

Definition of absolution

: 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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for absolution


amnesty, forgiveness, pardon, remission, remittal


penalty, punishment, retribution

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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

The gift of absolution is given within a tribe, and rarely outside it. Laila Lalami, New York Times, "Does American ‘Tribalism’ End in a Compromise, or a Fight?," 26 June 2018 Zaytoven’s beats flow around the anchor of Future’s voice, lifting him impossibly close to absolution in the process. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Cathartic Symphony of Future’s Beast Mode 2," 6 July 2018 Who changed the language from criminality originally to absolution? Fox News, "Hannity: How we got to this point with North Korea," 9 June 2018 Under Prosper’s terms, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLFP), which offered a rare avenue for loan absolution if a student entered government service, disappears—undercutting a major tool for the recruitment of bureaucrats. Allen C. Guelzo, WSJ, "The GOP’s Ambitious College Reform Plan," 16 May 2018 But in a lot of ways, his book tour seems to be going after absolution rather than Trump. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "James Comey’s ‘strange’ prosecution of President Trump," 16 Apr. 2018 Furthermore, the most overt link between You Were Never Really Here and Taxi Driver —a broken man's kinship with, and absolution through, a young, female prostitute—cuts deeper in Ramsay's film. Leah Pickett, Chicago Reader, "You Were Never Really Here updates Taxi Driver to an even colder urban landscape," 12 Apr. 2018 The House Intelligence Committee’s conclusion of no collusion is more an abdication than an absolution. Gerard Baker, WSJ, "The 10-Point.," 14 Mar. 2018 But the show does need absolution for its implausible scenarios that generate dramatic tension (not to mention a seemingly endless number of dubious decisions from characters at every turn). Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sneaky Pete' Season 2: TV Review," 9 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'absolution.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of absolution

13th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for absolution

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

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Time Traveler for absolution

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

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Comments on absolution

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to take the place or position of

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