verb ex·cul·pate \ ˈek-(ˌ)skəl-ˌpāt , (ˌ)ek-ˈskəl- \
Updated on: 10 Jan 2018

Definition of exculpate

exculpated; exculpating
transitive verb
: to clear from alleged fault or guilt


play \ˌek-(ˌ)skəl-ˈpā-shən\ noun

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Examples of exculpate in a Sentence

  1. The court exculpated him after a thorough investigation.

  2. I will present evidence that will exculpate my client.

Recent Examples of exculpate from the Web

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.

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."

Origin and Etymology of exculpate

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

EXCULPATE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of exculpate for English Language Learners

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

Law Dictionary


transitive verb ex·cul·pate \ ˈek-skəl-ˌpāt, ek-ˈskəl- \

legal Definition of exculpate

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 criticism
  • Lilly v. Virginia, 527 U.S. 116 (1999)
— compare acquit, exonerate


play \ˌek-skəl-ˈpā-shən\ noun

Origin and Etymology of exculpate

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

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to cause to suffer severely from hunger

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