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

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 Haines said that attorney Mellin, who worked on the Ham case in Houston from 2013 to 2014, had missed deadlines and failed to review documents or identify exculpatory Brady material boxes of evidence in the Indiana case. Gabrielle Banks, Houston Chronicle, "Houston judge questions capability of federal prosecutor in San Jacinto County death penalty case," 19 June 2019 After a confession, alibis are recanted, witnesses change stories, police ignore exculpatory evidence, and forensic scientists reinterpret material. Douglas Starr, Science | AAAS, "This psychologist explains why people confess to crimes they didn’t commit," 13 June 2019 Ava DuVernay’s four-part miniseries depicts Fairstein, as played by Felicity Huffman, as a win-at-all-costs prosecutor who badgered police and fellow prosecutors to secure confessions and hide exculpatory evidence from the defense. Cicero Estrella, The Mercury News, "Central Park 5 prosecutor loses book deal following fallout from Netflix miniseries," 7 June 2019 Next week’s hearing, as currently contemplated, will be a kangaroo court, because the Republicans have done everything in their power to prevent the consideration of any outside evidence, whether corroborating or exculpatory. Adam Shaw, Fox News, "Tentative agreement reached for Kavanaugh-Ford hearing on Thursday, source says," 2 Oct. 2018 Judge Sullivan has since made it his practice to begin every case with a Brady order, which reminds prosecutors of their constitutional obligation to provide the defense with any exculpatory evidence. Kimberley A. Strassel, WSJ, "Checking Robert Mueller," 13 Dec. 2018 And the most exculpatory evidence is in Comey's notes. Fox News, "McCarthy: Mueller is pursuing obstruction case against Trump," 21 Aug. 2018 Title IX judges would be required to consider both inculpatory and exculpatory evidence. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Reviving Due Process on Campus," 20 Nov. 2018

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

11 Jul 2019

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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

Comments on exculpatory

What made you want to look up exculpatory? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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