amnesty

1 of 2

noun

am·​nes·​ty ˈam-nə-stē How to pronounce amnesty (audio)
plural amnesties
: the act of an authority (such as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals
The government granted amnesty to all political prisoners.
a general amnesty

amnesty

2 of 2

verb

amnestied; amnestying

transitive verb

: to grant amnesty to : to pardon (someone) officially often before a trial or conviction
Only last Thursday Mr. Clinton told the U.S. that the generals were responsible for the killings … Now, they are to be amnestied and allowed to remain in Haiti if they so wish.A. M. Rosenthal
Traditionally, the incoming president amnesties all outstanding driving offences: during the months before an election people park even more selfishly than usual and drive at unbelievable speeds, knowing if they're caught, they'll be amnestied.Richard Horton

Examples of amnesty in a Sentence

Noun The government gave amnesty to all political prisoners. Illegal immigrants who came into the country before 1982 were granted amnesty.
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
Or, when Congress granted amnesty en masse to some former Confederates in 1867 who'd already won elections but not yet been seated. Devin Dwyer, ABC News, 6 Feb. 2024 But how can they be considered credible if American leaders continue to grant TikTok amnesty? Jimmy Byrn, National Review, 2 Feb. 2024 Then of course, the left will agitate to give these long term residents amnesty (many end up marrying, having kids, etc..). Henry Olsen, National Review, 19 Jan. 2024 Travis Reed wonders if the spirit of reconciliation of 1872, which conferred amnesty on Confederate rebels, can be resurrected for 2023, presumably to forgive Donald Trump’s insurrectionist transgression (Letters, Dec. 29). WSJ, 2 Jan. 2024 The provision was used to bar a wide range of ex-Confederates from positions ranging from local sheriff to Congress, but fell into disuse after an 1872 congressional amnesty for most former Confederates. TIME, 29 Dec. 2023 There are, of course, war criminals who need to be held accountable; my colleagues and I are not calling for amnesty all around. Aleksei Miniailo, Foreign Affairs, 28 Dec. 2023 Relatedly, the United States and Europe may want to offer amnesty to Russians who have participated in minor regime crimes in exchange for a willingness to oppose Putin and make Russia return to a path of peace and cooperation. Aleksei Miniailo, Foreign Affairs, 28 Dec. 2023 The amnesty bill passed, without civil-rights guarantees. Jill Lepore, The New Yorker, 4 Dec. 2023
Verb
In 1986, a Republican president—Ronald Reagan—signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, amnestying undocumented people, expanding guest worker programs, securing the border, and enhancing requirements for employers. TIME, 9 Jan. 2024 People on my side of the aisle are focused on there’s a huge immigration bill tucked into this reconciliation bill that would amnesty about eight million people and no one's talking about it. NBC News, 19 Sep. 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'amnesty.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Noun

borrowed from Latin amnēstia, borrowed from Greek amnēstía "forgetfulness, oblivion, deliberate overlooking of past offenses," from amnēstós "forgotten, forgetful" (from a- a- entry 2 + mnēstós "memorable," verbal adjective of mnáomai, mnâsthai "to be mindful of" and mimnḗskomai, mimnḗskesthai "to call to mind, remember") + -ia -y entry 2 — more at mind entry 1

Verb

derivative of amnesty entry 1

First Known Use

Noun

1580, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1802, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of amnesty was in 1580

Dictionary Entries Near amnesty

Cite this Entry

“Amnesty.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/amnesty. Accessed 29 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

amnesty

noun
am·​nes·​ty ˈam-nə-stē How to pronounce amnesty (audio)
plural amnesties
: the granting of pardon (as by a government) to a large number of persons

Legal Definition

amnesty

noun
am·​nes·​ty ˈam-nəs-tē How to pronounce amnesty (audio)
plural amnesties
: an act of clemency by an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted especially to a group of individuals
illegal-alien farm workers seeking amnestyNational Law Journal

More from Merriam-Webster on amnesty

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