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 Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to review the Flynn case, after which a host of new documents deemed exculpatory by Flynn’s lawyers were discovered. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "Peter Strzok kept up secretive searches of Michael Flynn after George Papadopoulos told FBI he received Russian 'dirt' tip," 29 Sep. 2020 Throughout the investigation, the family argues, DCS was acting only on those allegations and refused to acknowledge or explore any exculpatory evidence they were presented. Holly V. Hays, The Indianapolis Star, "Family files $3M lawsuit against DCS alleging kids removed from home under false pretenses," 23 Sep. 2020 After Attorney General William Barr appointed U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Jensen to review the Flynn case, a host of new documents deemed exculpatory by Flynn’s lawyers were discovered, and the Justice Department moved to drop the case. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "Appeals court rejects Flynn effort to force judge to drop case immediately," 31 Aug. 2020 This theory, bereft of supporting evidence and resistant to exculpatory evidence, had the imprimatur of FBI headquarters. Andrew C. Mccarthy, National Review, "Clinesmith’s Guilty Plea: The Perfect Snapshot of Crossfire Hurricane Duplicity," 24 Aug. 2020 Still, the exculpatory evidence opened the door for a good deal for Loughlin and Giannulli, Honig said. Mark Morales, CNN, "Lori Loughlin and husband, Mossimo Giannulli, to be sentenced Friday in college admissions scandal," 21 Aug. 2020 Whenever anyone’s been asked questions about this, the participants cite one another’s diplomatic testimony as exculpatory evidence. Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, "The Coming Color Revolution," 11 Aug. 2020 Police develop tunnel vision, become obsessed with one suspect and ignore exculpatory evidence. Barbara Bradley Hagerty, Washington Post, "Taking on the hardest cases — without DNA — and setting the innocent free," 7 Aug. 2020 The report also criticized the bureau for not passing along potentially exculpatory information from confidential sources to the FISA court. Jerry Dunleavy, Washington Examiner, "Director Wray says FBI’s conduct toward Flynn ‘raised serious concerns and questions’," 25 June 2020

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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The first known use of exculpatory was in 1781

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Last Updated

4 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Exculpatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpatory. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020.

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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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for exculpatory

Britannica English: Translation of exculpatory for Arabic Speakers

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