ab·​solve | \ əb-ˈzälv How to pronounce absolve (audio) , -ˈsälv, -ˈzȯlv, -ˈsȯlv also without l How to pronounce absolve (audio) \
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

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Other Words from absolve

absolver noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for absolve


acquit, clear, exculpate, exonerate, vindicate


criminate, incriminate

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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

The challenge for Nissan is how to blame Mr. Ghosn for its problems while absolving the company’s current executives of responsibility. Ben Dooley, New York Times, "Nissan Got Rid of Carlos Ghosn. The Way It Did So May Prove Costly.," 26 Aug. 2019 When the justices absolved Texas lawmakers of having drawn most of the state's congressional and state legislative districts based on racial demographics, Sotomayor was typically steamed. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "'The People's Justice:' After decade on Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor is most outspoken on bench and off," 8 Aug. 2019 Wilson emphasized that this does not mean that violent men are absolved of blame. George Will, Twin Cities, "George Will: An inflammatory president in an inflated office," 7 Aug. 2019 Wilson emphasized that this does not mean that violent men are absolved of blame. George F. Will, The Denver Post, "George Will: Trump doesn’t just pollute the social environment. He is the environment.," 6 Aug. 2019 Now, to be clear: None these traumas absolve any perpetrator of their actions and its consequences, Johnson says. Roy S. Johnson | Rjohnson@al.com, al.com, "Inside Birmingham’s Peace & Policy strategy: Will it stem the violence?," 24 July 2019 Immediately after the war, some in Germany worked to absolve themselves of responsibility for war atrocities and construct the notion of German victimhood or the power of the Soviet state in defeating fascism. Gail Fletcher, National Geographic, "The forgotten ‘wolf children’ of World War II," 29 July 2019 The hurt that led them to commit the felony does not excuse or absolve the crime. Roy S. Johnson | Rjohnson@al.com, al.com, "Johnson: Marshea Jones should not be prosecuted; she should be helped," 30 June 2019 Clearly the sales rep deceived you, but timeshare contracts typically have a clause that absolves the developer from responsibility for anything sales reps say. Liz Weston | Nerdwallet.com, oregonlive.com, "Liz Weston: You’re not going to get money back from timeshare purchase," 29 June 2019

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.

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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

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Last Updated

6 Sep 2019

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

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More Definitions for absolve


ab·​solve | \ əb-ˈzälv How to pronounce absolve (audio) , -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 How to pronounce absolve (audio) \
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)

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More from Merriam-Webster on absolve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with absolve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for absolve

Spanish Central: Translation of absolve

Nglish: Translation of absolve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of absolve for Arabic Speakers

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).


one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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