ab·solve | \ əb-ˈzälv , -ˈsälv , -ˈzȯlv , -ˈsȯlv also without l \
absolved; absolving

Definition of absolve 

transitive verb


1 : to set (someone) free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt The jury absolved the defendants of their crimes. Her youth does not absolve her of responsibility for her actions.

2 : to pardon or forgive (a sin) : to remit (a sin) by absolution asked the priest to absolve his sins

Keep scrolling for more

Other words from absolve

absolver noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for absolve


acquit, clear, exculpate, exonerate, vindicate


criminate, incriminate

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for absolve

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

Did You Know?

The act of absolving can be seen as releasing someone from blame or sin, or "loosening" the hold that responsibility has on a person, which provides a hint about the word's origins. Absolve was adopted into Middle English in the 15th century from the Latin verb absolvere, formed by combining the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with solvere, meaning "to loosen." (Absolve also once had additional senses of "finish, accomplish" and "to resolve or explain," but these are now obsolete.) Solvere is also the ancestor of the English words solve, dissolve, resolve, solvent, and solution.

Examples of absolve in a Sentence

no amount of remorse will absolve shoplifters who are caught, and all cases will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law

Recent Examples on the Web

Genius, it is ordinarily assumed, is erected on the tortured soul, one that is absolved hence from its tortures of others. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "Hemingway’s Last Girl," 12 July 2018 Her critics argue that advanced age should not absolve her of having to pay the consequences for her actions — lying under oath, according to the book. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "Why there’s little optimism after the Justice Department reopened the Emmett Till case," 12 July 2018 After creating a straw-man argument that women just weren’t interested in working on an award-winning TV show, Letterman sets out to further absolve himself of guilt. Nell Scovell, The Cut, "David Letterman Just Can’t Figure Out Why He Never Had Women Writers," 14 May 2018 The Sewerage & Water Board's agreement with the Corps of Engineers absolves the federal agency of any legal liability for property damage, and the utility has tried in federal court - unsuccessfully - to pin blame on the contractors themselves. Beau Evans, NOLA.com, "Sewerage & Water Board, Uptown homeowners agree to mediation over drainage project damage," 28 Feb. 2018 No, that doesn't absolve him of his past comments or his past behavior. Chris Cillizza, CNN, "The case of the curiously compelling Dennis Rodman-Chris Cuomo interview," 12 June 2018 As the months have passed, Luck has continued to reveal more and more about what buried him last fall, refusing to absolve himself of blame. Zak Keefer, Indianapolis Star, "Insider: Colts QB Andrew Luck reveals why this time is different," 12 June 2018 The possible message: Stay quiet, don’t cooperate with prosecutors, and Trump will use the president’s unilateral pardon powers to absolve you of wrongdoing and keep you out of jail. Bob Van Voris, Bloomberg.com, "What Pardons Can (and Can’t) Do for Trump’s Defense," 4 June 2018 Jonrowe's wife, DeeDee Jonrowe, and Baker's brother, John Baker, have both retired from racing, and Owens' daughter Melissa is not entering the 2019 race, absolving them of conflicts of interest, St. George said. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, "28 mushers enter 2019 Iditarod, the smallest first-day signup this century," 1 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of absolve

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for absolve

Middle English absolven, borrowed from Latin absolvere "to release, acquit, finish, complete," from ab- ab- + solvere "to loosen, release" — more at solve

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about absolve

Listen to Our Podcast about absolve

Statistics for absolve

Last Updated

23 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for absolve

The first known use of absolve was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for absolve


ab·solve | \ əb-ˈzälv , -ˈsälv \
absolved; absolving

Kids Definition of absolve

: to make free from guilt or responsibility He was absolved of wrongdoing.


transitive verb
ab·solve | \ əb-ˈzälv, -ˈsälv \
absolved; absolving

Legal Definition of absolve 

1 : to set free or release from some obligation or responsibility a judgment terminating a parent's rights…absolves that parent of all future support obligationsIn re Bruce R., 662 A.2d 107 (1995)

2 : to determine to be free of fault, guilt, or liability a jury absolved the defendant of any negligenceHarbaugh v. Darr, 438 P.2d 74 (1968)

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on absolve

What made you want to look up absolve? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


alleviating pain or harshness

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Musical Words Quiz

  • gramophone
  • Which word describes a musical performance marked by the absence of instrumental accompaniment?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!