exculpated; exculpating

transitive verb

: to clear from alleged fault or guilt
exculpation noun

Did you know?

Exculpate is the joining of the prefix ex-, meaning "not," and the Latin noun culpa, meaning "blame." Readers may be familiar with the Latin phrase mea culpa, which translates directly as "through my fault" and is used in English to mean "a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error."

Choose the Right Synonym for exculpate

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 exculpate in a Sentence

The court exculpated him after a thorough investigation. I will present evidence that will exculpate my client.
Recent Examples on the Web The results of that closer analysis is what were released Monday — and still ultimately exculpated Cline. Courtney Tanner, The Salt Lake Tribune, 8 Aug. 2023 Now that Barry has accepted the death of his mother (Maribel Verdú) and successfully exculpated his father (Ron Livingston), the arc that has defined him on screen so far is resolved. Christian Holub, EW.com, 17 June 2023 The justices could also require that prosecutors show that the defendant acted with criminal intent, which could also exculpate certain edge cases. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 30 Mar. 2023 Examining Suzanne Morphew's body could either incriminate or exculpate her husband, prosecutors said. Erielle Reshef, ABC News, 15 May 2023 The effort to exculpate and vindicate him relies on misdirection and blame-shifting and is thoroughly unconvincing. Rich Lowry, National Review, 13 Nov. 2022 The justices heard oral arguments on Tuesday morning in one case that could determine whether a death-row prisoner gets a chance to potentially exculpate himself through DNA testing. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 12 Oct. 2022 To accede to the idea that whiteness can be lost, albeit in the name of open-endedness and open-mindedness, is to exculpate the capitalist imperialism that invented race in the first place. Namwali Serpell, The Atlantic, 2 Aug. 2022 Prosecutors said examining Suzanne Morphew's body could incriminate or exculpate her husband. Emily Shapiro, ABC News, 6 May 2022 See More

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

Word History


Medieval Latin exculpatus, past participle of exculpare, from Latin ex- + culpa blame

First Known Use

circa 1656, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of exculpate was circa 1656


Dictionary Entries Near exculpate

Cite this Entry

“Exculpate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpate. Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


exculpated; exculpating
: to clear from a charge of fault or guilt
exculpation noun

Legal Definition


transitive verb
ex·​cul·​pate ˈek-skəl-ˌpāt, ek-ˈskəl- How to pronounce exculpate (audio)
exculpated; exculpating
: to clear from alleged fault or guilt
as time passed, however, the…rule, which barred the admission of other persons' confessions that exculpated the accused, became the subject of increasing criticismLilly v. Virginia, 527 U.S. 116 (1999)
compare acquit, exonerate
exculpation noun

Medieval Latin exculpare, from Latin ex- out of + culpa blame

More from Merriam-Webster on exculpate

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