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

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Other Words from exonerate

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

Synonyms & Antonyms for exonerate


absolve, acquit, clear, exculpate, vindicate


criminate, incriminate

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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?

We won't blame you if you don't know the origins of today's word. Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden" (onus itself lives on with that meaning in English). In its earliest uses, dating from the 16th century, exonerate was used in the context of physical burdens—a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."

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

While behind bars in Lompoc, Walthall concocted a detailed scheme to kidnap Guilford and force the judge to exonerate him. Daily Pilot, "Court overturns conviction of former Laguna Beach man found guilty of plotting to kill judge in wood chipper," 30 July 2019 By November 2013, the harassment investigation largely exonerated the chief, according to his attorneys, but its conclusions were never shared with the press. oregonlive.com, "Oregon Appeals Court upholds retaliation verdict in feud between city manager and police chief in Scappoose," 10 June 2019 After Banks was exonerated, Carroll — now head coach of the Seattle Seahawks — gave him a tryout as did a few other NFL teams. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Actors, attorneys and exonorees walk the red carpert at screening of ‘Brian Banks’ movie in Balboa Park," 4 Aug. 2019 As dozens of death row inmates were exonerated and public support for capital punishment ebbed, the number of death sentences carried out plunged by 74%, from 98 at the peak to 25 last year. Steve Chapman, chicagotribune.com, "Column: The expensive folly of federal executions," 31 July 2019 According to The Sun, however, eyewitnesses exonerate the 27-year-old from the actual altercation. SI.com, "Newcastle Stars Jonjo Shelvey and Karl Darlow Involved in 3am Dust Up Outside Takeaway," 20 July 2019 Collier later issued a statement saying he would be exonerated. Mike Cason | Mcason@al.com, al.com, "Alabama pays $525,000 to settle Collier-Bentley case; with legal fees total hits $1 million," 27 June 2019 After serving several years in prison, they were exonerated in 2002, and just recently settled with the City of New York in 2014. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "9 New Things to Stream in May on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and More," 29 Apr. 2019 In the end, Whymper and Taugwalder were exonerated, but the controversy continued. Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, "How the pursuit of one European peak gave rise to modern mountaineering," 1 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for exonerate

Last Updated

11 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for exonerate

The first known use of exonerate was in 1524

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English Language Learners Definition of exonerate

formal : 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

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Comments on exonerate

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readily or continually undergoing change

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