ex·​cul·​pate | \ˈek-(ˌ)skəl-ˌpāt, (ˌ)ek-ˈskəl- \
exculpated; exculpating

Definition of exculpate 

transitive verb

: to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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Other Words from exculpate

exculpation \ ˌek-​(ˌ)skəl-​ˈpā-​shən \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exculpate


absolve, acquit, clear, exonerate, vindicate


criminate, incriminate

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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

Did You Know?

You need not take the blame if you're unfamiliar with the origins of "exculpate," but there's a hint in this sentence. The word, which was adopted in the late 17th century from Medieval Latin exculpatus, traces back to the Latin noun culpa, meaning "blame." Some other descendants of "culpa" in English include "culpable" ("meriting condemnation or blame") and "inculpate" ("incriminate"), as well as the considerably rarer "culpatory" ("accusing") and "disculpate" (a synonym of "exculpate"). You may also be familiar with the borrowed 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."

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

And that accountability requires more than self-exculpating statements from the cardinals involved. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "A Catholic cardinal has weathered sex abuse allegations for years. Now they’re finally public," 29 July 2018 And, of course, the German military is to be exculpated, as having acted honorably. Adam Nossiter, New York Times, "Approaching 90, and Still the ‘Devil of the Republic’," 16 Mar. 2018 Nothing — nothing at all — in the Nunes Memo exculpates Donald Trump from charges of obstruction of justice or Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Don Jr., or any other staff from charges of criminal conspiracy to collude with the Russians. Eugene Scott, Washington Post, "Partisanship is shaping people's views on the GOP memo," 2 Feb. 2018 The new e-mail, which came to light because of Brown’s lawsuit, backs up his claims, showing that the prosecutor at the time, Dan Rizzo, was aware of evidence that could exculpate Brown. Anne Branigin, The Root, "Former Texas Prosecutor Withheld Email that Could Have Prevented Innocent Man from Landing on Death Row: Report," 4 Mar. 2018 At root, the only political considerations permitted into the gun debate are those that exculpate the owners, distributors, and manufacturers of the guns. Jacob Bacharach, New Republic, "America’s Gun Sickness Goes Way Beyond Guns," 23 Feb. 2018 The president of the United States has made no comment on the deaths of four soldiers except to exculpate himself. David A. Graham, The Atlantic, "How Trump Changed the Topic to Obama's Consolation Calls," 17 Oct. 2017 Yet for the insanity defense to live up to the moral imperative it was designed to embody — exculpating those with diminished responsibility for their acts — better mechanisms for evaluating release will need to be adopted, Slobogin says. Mac Mcclelland, New York Times, "When ‘Not Guilty’ Is a Life Sentence," 27 Sep. 2017 However the public chose to remember her, the German government exculpated Mata Hari in 1930. Ray Cavanaugh, Time, "The Spy: A Novel of Mata Hari," 13 Oct. 2017

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

circa 1681, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for exculpate

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

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Statistics for exculpate

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for exculpate

The first known use of exculpate was circa 1681

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English Language Learners Definition of exculpate

: to prove that someone is not guilty of doing something wrong


transitive verb
ex·​cul·​pate | \ˈek-skəl-ˌpāt, ek-ˈskəl- \
exculpated; exculpating

Legal Definition of exculpate 

: 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

Other Words from exculpate

exculpation \ ˌek-​skəl-​ˈpā-​shən \ noun

History and Etymology for exculpate

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

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Comments on exculpate

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


playful or foolish behavior

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