ab·​solve əb-ˈzälv How to pronounce absolve (audio) -ˈsälv How to pronounce absolve (audio)
 also without  l
absolved; absolving

transitive verb

formal : 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.
formal : to pardon or forgive (a sin) : to remit (a sin) by absolution
asked the priest to absolve his sins
absolver noun formal

Did you know?

The act of absolving can be seen as releasing someone from blame or sin, or "loosening" the hold that responsibility or guilt 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 ("to release, acquit, finish, complete"), formed by combining the prefix ab- ("from, away, off") with solvere, meaning "to loosen." Absolve also once had additional senses of "to finish or 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.

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

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 Like Gene Hackman’s Harry Caul, Mühe’s Hauptmann Wiesler imagines that living in isolation will absolve him of the horrors wrought by his work. Dennis Perkins, EW.com, 5 Apr. 2024 The hotel had absolved me of responsibility for my son, which created an emotional chasm; its rigid routines had stopped us from learning about him as an individual. Clarissa Wei, The New Yorker, 23 Mar. 2024 The company published the summary of WilmerHale’s findings in a blog post today, but did not go further than absolving the board for firing Altman, while also finding that the board should not have fired Altman. Amanda Gerut, Fortune, 9 Mar. 2024 The justices sidestepped the politically fraught issue of insurrection in their opinions Monday, but some Trump critics pointed to the silence on that topic as a victory of sorts because the court failed to absolve him of responsibility for the Capitol riot. Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports, arkansasonline.com, 5 Mar. 2024 In May of 2022, the four employees absolved of wrongdoing were finally returned to full duty. Carol Marbin Miller, Miami Herald, 11 Feb. 2024 By invoking concepts like karma or divine retribution, individuals employing this language absolve themselves of responsibility while casting judgment upon the other party. Mark Travers, Forbes, 20 Feb. 2024 Does her refusal to talk about her dire situation absolve you from all responsibility? Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, 14 Feb. 2024 The Israeli public has not absolved Netanyahu of responsibility for October 7. Aluf Benn, Foreign Affairs, 7 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'absolve.' 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 absolven, borrowed from Latin absolvere "to release, acquit, finish, complete," from ab- ab- + solvere "to loosen, release" — more at solve

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near absolve

Cite this Entry

“Absolve.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/absolve. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ab·​solve əb-ˈzälv How to pronounce absolve (audio) -ˈsälv How to pronounce absolve (audio)
absolved; absolving
: to set free from an obligation or punishment
absolver noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
absolved; absolving
: 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)
: 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)

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