ex·​pi·​ate ˈek-spē-ˌāt How to pronounce expiate (audio)
expiated; expiating

transitive verb

: to make amends for
permission to expiate their offences by their assiduous laboursFrancis Bacon
: to extinguish the guilt incurred by
obsolete : to put an end to
expiable adjective
expiator noun

Did you know?

"Disaster shall fall upon you, which you will not be able to expiate." That ominous biblical prophecy (Isaiah 47:11, RSV) shows that expiate was once involved in confronting the forces of evil as well as in assuaging guilt. The word derives from the Latin expiare ("to atone for"), a combination of ex- and piare, which itself means "to atone for" as well as "to appease" and traces to the Latin pius ("pious"). Expiate originally referred to warding off evil by using sacred rites, or to using sacred rites to cleanse or purify something. By the end of the 16th century, English speakers were using it to mean "to put an end to." Those senses are now obsolete and only the "to extinguish the guilt" and "to make amends" senses remain in use.

Examples of expiate in a Sentence

Yom Kippur is the holy day on which Jews are expected to expiate sins committed during the past year.
Recent Examples on the Web The Sisters have come a long way, but never strayed from their mission: to promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 8 June 2023 But now Epstein, 49, is wearing a different hat, and hoping to expiate his unintended sins against a sport that has been his lifelong passion. David Axelrod, CNN, 1 Apr. 2023 In the former category are Ani (Katy Sullivan), who lost her legs in a car accident, and her ex-husband Eddie (David Zayas), a good-natured, unemployed truck driver who insists on caring for Ani, possibly to expiate his guilt over cheating on her when they were married. Don Aucoin, BostonGlobe.com, 13 Oct. 2022 Only the brilliant Richard Fleischer–Norman Wexler Mandingo in 1975 would expiate that consciousness. Armond White, National Review, 27 Apr. 2022 In 17th-century Austria, wooden pillars were erected for the self-mortifying convenience of the flagellants who roamed Europe, whipping themselves to expiate whatever sins had brought on the Black Death. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 15 Mar. 2021 Ridding oneself of guilt is often easier than overcoming shame, in part because our society offers many ways to expiate guilt-inducing offenses, including apologizing, paying fines, and serving jail time. Annette Kämmerer, Scientific American, 9 Aug. 2019 Anyone who’s familiar with the world of competitive cycling knows that, for some athletes, the sport is a means of escaping, or salving, or expiating, tremendous inner pain. Bill Gifford, Outside Online, 24 July 2019 Perhaps, but as Chief Justice John Roberts notes in his persuasive dissent, there’s no crisis that now compels the Court to expiate a long-ago mistake that Congress has the power to fix. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 21 June 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'expiate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin expiatus, past participle of expiare to atone for, from ex- + piare to atone for, appease, from pius faithful, pious

First Known Use

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of expiate was circa 1500

Dictionary Entries Near expiate

Cite this Entry

“Expiate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expiate. Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


ex·​pi·​ate ˈek-spē-ˌāt How to pronounce expiate (audio)
expiated; expiating
: to make up for : atone

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