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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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 An appellate court determined that prosecutors had not shared possible exculpatory evidence with defense attorneys. Washington Post, 8 Oct. 2021 Freier said the detective handling the case had repeatedly been late in turning over exculpatory evidence and was unfamiliar with how evidence is handled in a criminal case. Washington Post, 24 Sep. 2021 The main piece of exculpatory evidence: five photographs taken during the Glass Fire’s first moments, between 3:37 and 3:54 a.m. Esther Mobley, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 Aug. 2021 Sometimes, officers are disciplined internally after a case is reversed, often for witness tampering, fabricating evidence or concealing exculpatory evidence and committing perjury at trial. Washington Post, 14 Aug. 2021 Many details of the crime-procedural element—the hero’s dogged, dangerous search in the Marseille underworld for exculpatory evidence—are less than convincing or depend on happenstance. Joe Morgenstern, WSJ, 29 July 2021 Descano’s office was previously rebuked by another judge for failing to turn over exculpatory evidence in a first-degree murder case to an 18-year-old defendant. Washington Post, 25 June 2021 Other exculpatory evidence surfaced only after the trial. Katya Cengel, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 June 2021 Deborah Katz Levi, the head of the special litigation unit for the public defender’s Baltimore district office, has extensively reviewed Internal Affairs files for potential exculpatory evidence for her clients. Jessica Anderson, baltimoresun.com, 18 June 2021

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

17 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Exculpatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpatory. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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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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