am·​nes·​ty | \ ˈam-nə-stē How to pronounce amnesty (audio) \
plural amnesties

Definition of amnesty

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: 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


amnestied; amnestying

Definition of amnesty (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for amnesty

Synonyms: Noun

Antonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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 Ironically, one of the main reasons the Diversity Lottery was inaugurated was in response to President Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty gift to Mexico. Christine M. Flowers,, "NYC attacker was here legally. So why are immigrants being politicized yet again? | Christine Flowers," 2 Nov. 2017 If the children are not deported quickly, officials say, many will never leave, eventually becoming a new population of sympathetic young immigrants who seek amnesty to live and work in the U.S. legally. Michael D. Shear, Alaska Dispatch News, "For deal on ‘dreamers,’ White House will demand crackdown on child border crossers," 9 Oct. 2017 Outside the amnesty period, possession of an unregistered firearm carries a fine of up to $280,000 in Australian dollars ($220,000 in U.S. currency) and up to 14 years in jail. Doug Stanglin, USA TODAY, "Australian foreign minister offers to share tough gun-law experience with U.S.," 4 Oct. 2017 Nearly nine months into the Trump administration, Obamacare remains intact, tax reform is in doubt, and an amnesty bill for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children is, shockingly, a legislative possibility. Tina Nguyen,, "Mike Pence’s Chief of Staff Wants to “Purge” Congress of the Nonbelievers," 3 Oct. 2017 During the campaign, Trump also spoke frequently against amnesty and said even Dreamers would have to leave the country. Lisa Mascaro,, "Trump defends immigration negotiations as some supporters fume," 14 Sep. 2017 They will be confronted by challengers denouncing anyone who supports such legislation as being pro-immigration-amnesty and too unpatriotic to put real Americans first, a Republican strain of identity politics that has been turbocharged by Mr Trump. The Economist, "Donald Trump is right: Congress should pass DACA," 9 Sep. 2017 Ken Dwidjugiasteadi, director general of tax at Indonesia’s finance ministry, said 62 of the 81 people had participated in a recent tax amnesty program in Indonesia. Margot Patrick, WSJ, "Indonesia Investigating Standard Chartered Customers Over $1.4 Billion Transfer," 10 Oct. 2017 Huerta was born in Mexico, but her family became citizens as part of the 1986 amnesty act under Reagan. Jason Tesauro, Esquire, "How Houston's Restaurants Rewrote the Playbook on Disaster Relief," 19 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'amnesty.' 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 amnesty


1580, in the meaning defined above


1802, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for amnesty


Greek amnēstia forgetfulness, from amnēstos forgotten, from a- + mnasthai to remember — more at mind

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about amnesty

Time Traveler for amnesty

Time Traveler

The first known use of amnesty was in 1580

See more words from the same year

Statistics for amnesty

Cite this Entry

“Amnesty.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Feb. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for amnesty


How to pronounce amnesty (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of amnesty

: a decision that a group of people will not be punished or that a group of prisoners will be allowed to go free


am·​nes·​ty | \ ˈam-nəs-tē How to pronounce amnesty (audio) \
plural amnesties

Legal Definition of amnesty

: 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on amnesty

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


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

More Confusing Words—Quiz

  • cats on impossible timber
  • The magician ______ moved the selected card to the top of the deck.
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

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!