ex·​on·​er·​ate | \ ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt How to pronounce exonerate (audio) , eg- \
exonerated; exonerating

Definition of exonerate

transitive verb

1 : to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship
2 : to clear from accusation or blame

Other Words from exonerate

exoneration \ ig-​ˌzä-​nə-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce exonerate (audio) , eg-​ \ noun
exonerative \ ig-​ˈzä-​nə-​ˌrā-​tiv How to pronounce exonerate (audio) , eg-​ \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for exonerate



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Choose the Right Synonym for exonerate

exculpate, absolve, exonerate, acquit, vindicate mean to free from a charge. exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault often in a matter of small importance. exculpating himself from the charge of overenthusiasm absolve implies a release either from an obligation that binds the conscience or from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin. cannot be absolved of blame exonerate implies a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any attendant suspicion of blame or guilt. exonerated by the investigation acquit implies a formal decision in one's favor with respect to a definite charge. voted to acquit the defendant vindicate may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly, and implies a clearing effected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame. her judgment was vindicated

Where does exonerate come from?

Exonerate comes from the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden." That verb combines the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden." In its earliest uses, exonerate was applied to physical burdens—a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to the freeing of any kind of burden, including blame or charges of wrongdoing.

Examples of exonerate in a Sentence

the results of the DNA fingerprinting finally exonerated the man, but only after he had wasted 10 years of his life in prison
Recent Examples on the Web Now a civilian, Gentry defended her decision to exonerate Mattingly after considering Meyer’s recommendation and those of two of his supervisors. Washington Post, 3 Mar. 2021 Now, three decades later, new DNA technology may lead to a second trial that supporters hope will exonerate Mr. Raddad, who has always maintained his innocence, and reopen a case that, though seemingly settled legally, has long unsettled France. New York Times, 20 Nov. 2021 An attorney for one of three men convicted in one of the most high profile murder cases in recent Arkansas history said he was granted access to evidence needed for new DNA testing as part of decades-long efforts to exonerate the West Memphis Three. Lara Farrar, Arkansas Online, 22 Dec. 2021 Interim Police Chief Mike Ake made the decision to exonerate Farinas and Ford after a review of the internal affairs investigation. Michelle Watson, CNN, 21 Dec. 2021 More recently, the House of Commons attempted to trash its own disciplinary system in order to exonerate an egregious offender: MP Owen Paterson, who took in some £110,000 a year in breach of lobbying rules. Douglas Board, Fortune, 12 Nov. 2021 Earlier this month, Strickland testified during a three-day evidentiary hearing -- which involved eyewitness testimony given under oath -- and the evidence presented was sufficient to exonerate him. Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN, 24 Nov. 2021 So that's at least part of what this series is designed to do, to go back and credit, exonerate, examine, in this case, perhaps make a case for another look or an exoneration. Claire Thornton, USA TODAY, 27 July 2021 Cooper has maintained his innocence throughout and has accused law enforcement of planting evidence and ignoring statements by witnesses that could have helped exonerate him. Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times, 28 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'exonerate.' 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 exonerate

1524, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for exonerate

Middle English, from Latin exoneratus, past participle of exonerare to unburden, from ex- + oner-, onus load

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Time Traveler for exonerate

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The first known use of exonerate was in 1524

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Last Updated

24 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Exonerate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exonerate. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for exonerate



English Language Learners Definition of exonerate

: to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime or responsible for a problem, bad situation, etc.


transitive verb
ex·​on·​er·​ate | \ ig-ˈzä-nə-ˌrāt, eg- How to pronounce exonerate (audio) \
exonerated; exonerating

Legal Definition of exonerate

1 : to relieve especially of a charge, obligation, or hardship
2 : to clear from accusation or blame — compare acquit, exculpate

History and Etymology for exonerate

Latin exonerare to relieve, free, discharge, from ex- out + onerare to burden, from oner-, onus load

More from Merriam-Webster on exonerate

Nglish: Translation of exonerate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of exonerate for Arabic Speakers


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