ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio)
: tending or serving to exculpate

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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 indictment was upheld by Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer, who shot down claims from the defense that prosecutors violated grand jury rules to divert attention from witnesses and exculpatory evidence. Evan Rosen, New York Daily News, 14 June 2024 That ruling expanded on the 1963 Brady v. Maryland decision, in which the Supreme Court held that prosecutors must provide exculpatory information to the defense. Tresa Baldas, Detroit Free Press, 20 Mar. 2024 Alex Spiro, one of Baldwin’s defense lawyers, argued that the prosecution had violated a court order and deliberately steered the jurors away from exculpatory evidence. Gene Maddaus, Variety, 17 May 2024 The commission changed that policy under Albritton and voted 4-0 last year to adopt an advisory opinion that the commission was not required or permitted to disclose exculpatory information. Mike Cason | McAson@al.com, al, 26 June 2023 See all Example Sentences for exculpatory 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'exculpatory.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1781, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of exculpatory was in 1781


Dictionary Entries Near exculpatory

Cite this Entry

“Exculpatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpatory. Accessed 22 Jun. 2024.

Legal Definition


ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio)
: tending or serving to exculpate
an exculpatory clause in a contract
compare inculpatory

More from Merriam-Webster on exculpatory

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