ex·cul·pa·to·ry | \ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtȯr-ē \

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 latest turn in the winding case emerged this week when the county filed a motion to dismiss Brown's suit by claiming the evidence that freed him wasn't really exculpatory and didn't need to be turned over. Keri Blakinger, Houston Chronicle, "Ex-death row inmate Alfred Brown 'bluffed his way out of prison,' county alleges," 9 May 2018 The exculpatory e-mails have no legitimate commercial value to the bankrupt company. Travis Andersen, BostonGlobe.com, "Alan Dershowitz consulting for Harvey Weinstein’s legal team," 4 May 2018 In essence, the exculpatory story is that the president hands out hush money so readily that his attorney has carte blanche to cut six-figure payoff checks on his behalf without checking with the client. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Trump’s Stormy Daniels tweets show how easy he is to blackmail," 3 May 2018 Morehead did not inform the court that this evidence [the SIM card and photos] was potentially exculpatory evidence. Michael Harriot, The Root, "‘Evilest White Woman on Earth’: The Criminal Injustice of Terra Morehead," 6 June 2018 Smith’s affidavit provides no exculpatory information concerning Harris. Ryan J. Foley, The Seattle Times, "Witness: Wrong man is in prison in 1986 slaying of Iowa teen," 28 May 2018 But the donors saw exculpatory evidence for Patterson in them. Julie Zauzmer, Washington Post, "Angry donors threaten to withhold money from seminary that fired Paige Patterson," 4 July 2018 Prosecutors illegally withhold exculpatory evidence also deemed errors in judgment. WSJ, "IG Answers Some Questions, Raises Others," 19 June 2018 Failure to disclose exculpatory information to a defendant before trial, known as a Brady violation, is a serious courtroom breach. Clifford Ward, chicagotribune.com, "DuPage County judge rejects ex-Schaumburg cop's bid to change guilty plea in drug-ring case," 25 May 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

19 Sep 2018

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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 \

Legal Definition of exculpatory 

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

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