ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry | \ ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio) \

Definition of exculpatory

: tending or serving to exculpate

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Did You Know?

No one will blame you for having questions about the origins of exculpatory. The adjective comes from a combination of the prefix ex-, meaning "out of" or "away from," and the Latin noun culpa, which means "blame" or "guilt." Something exculpatory, then, frees one from accusations. Culpa has given English a number of other words, including the verb exculpate ("to clear from alleged fault or guilt"). The related but lesser-known terms inculpate ("to incriminate") and inculpatory ("incriminating") are antonyms of exculpate and exculpatory. Culpable is a synonym of blameworthy, and mea culpa refers to a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error.

Examples of exculpatory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

The decision reverses a lower court ruling that barred the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from sharing these names with prosecutors, who are required to disclose exculpatory information with defense attorneys. Megan Cassidy, SFChronicle.com, "Calif. Supreme Court: Police can alert prosecutors about officers with misconduct in their backgrounds," 26 Aug. 2019 By law, prosecutors are required to disclose to defendants exculpatory evidence, including information that could diminish the credibility of police officers who worked on a case. Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times, "California Supreme Court backs greater access to police misconduct cases," 26 Aug. 2019 Senator Biden made those comments in response to Senator Hatch's attempts to frame the FBI's 1991 report on Clarence Thomas as exculpatory. Brooke Singman, Fox News, "Kavanaugh in fiery exchange with Sen. Durbin over call for FBI probe," 27 Sep. 2018 The policy’s name refers to Brady v. Maryland, a landmark 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence to defendants in criminal cases. Tess Sheets, orlandosentinel.com, "Orlando police union bristles at state attorney’s plan to make list of unreliable witnesses, including cops," 2 Aug. 2019 Spacey's defense team wants to examine the phone itself, claiming that exculpatory evidence may have been deleted before it was given to police and prosecutors. Bonney Kapp And Jean Casarez, CNN, "Kevin Spacey sex assault case could be dismissed because the accuser took the Fifth Amendment, judge says," 8 July 2019 Spacey’s attorneys claim the phone contains exculpatory evidence. Sean Cotter, The Mercury News, "Spacey accusers due to appear in court Monday in battle over cellphone," 7 July 2019 Prosecutors are also required to reveal possibly exculpatory evidence to the defense far earlier in the discovery process. New York Times, "12 Ways the Progressive Takeover Is Transforming New York," 21 June 2019 But those who witnessed the shooting and concocted false, exculpatory narratives in the aftermath did so coldly and deliberately. Eric Zorn, chicagotribune.com, "Laquan McDonald documentary glosses over the lingering outrage of the notorious case," 13 June 2019

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

1781, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

19 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exculpatory

The first known use of exculpatory was in 1781

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More Definitions for exculpatory


ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry | \ ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio) \

Legal Definition of exculpatory

: tending or serving to exculpate an exculpatory clause in a contract — compare inculpatory

More from Merriam-Webster on exculpatory

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with exculpatory

Britannica English: Translation of exculpatory for Arabic Speakers

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