verb ab·solve \ əb-ˈzälv , -ˈsälv , -ˈzȯlv , -ˈsȯlv also without l \
|Updated on: 12 Jul 2018

Definition of absolve

absolved; absolving
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



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Examples of absolve in a Sentence

  1. 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 of absolve from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of absolve

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

ABSOLVE Defined for Kids


verb ab·solve \ əb-ˈzälv , -ˈsälv \

Definition of absolve for Students

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

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ab·solve \ əb-ˈzälv, -ˈsälv \

legal Definition of absolve

absolved; absolving
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 obligations
  • In 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 negligence
  • Harbaugh v. Darr, 438 P.2d 74 (1968)

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