ex·​cul·​pate | \ ˈek-(ˌ)skəl-ˌpāt How to pronounce exculpate (audio) , (ˌ)ek-ˈskəl- How to pronounce exculpate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce exculpate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for exculpate



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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 After all, if Mulvaney or Bolton could give testimony that would exculpate Trump in the Ukraine scandal, the president would have frog-marched them to the House Intelligence Committee himself last month. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Don’t Withhold the Articles of Impeachment," 19 Dec. 2019 The East defined itself in the tradition of communists who had resisted fascism, giving rise to a state doctrine of remembrance that effectively exculpated it from wartime atrocities. Katrin Bennhold, New York Times, "Germany Has Been Unified for 30 Years. Its Identity Still Is Not.," 9 Nov. 2019 No evidence emerged linking the man to the crime at the school in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, and some testimony exculpated him. Washington Post, "Myanmar court dismisses charges against child rape defendant," 19 Dec. 2019 Thus, Harvey’s magnitude does not exculpate the government of liability for its actions. BostonGlobe.com, "Government liable to some Hurricane Harvey victims, district court rules - The Boston Globe," 19 Dec. 2019 The fact that the bombardiers are Saudi hardly exculpates the United States. BostonGlobe.com, "the devastation of Yemen," 5 Oct. 2019 Another investigator, retired federal judge Barbara Jones, took on the task of laying out the larger context of the league’s gross mishandling of the Rice case apart from the tiny, exculpating factoid that Mr. Mueller was assigned to document. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "What Mueller Won’t Say," 26 Mar. 2019 The leaking of the above letter, while apparently an attempt to exculpate him, only makes his awareness more apparent. Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter, "Bob Weinstein Wants Back Into Hollywood. Here's Why Hollywood Shouldn't Let Him," 24 Oct. 2019 Now that shift is being used by Republicans to attempt to exculpate Trump and accuse Mueller. Ephrat Livni, Quartz, "Republicans believe Ken Starr could save Donald Trump," 24 July 2019

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 1656, 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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The first known use of exculpate was circa 1656

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Cite this Entry

“Exculpate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpate. Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for exculpate



English Language Learners Definition of exculpate

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


transitive verb
ex·​cul·​pate | \ ˈek-skəl-ˌpāt, ek-ˈskəl- How to pronounce exculpate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce exculpate (audio) \ noun

History and Etymology for exculpate

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

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