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

Definition of expiate

transitive verb

1a : to make amends for permission to expiate their offences by their assiduous labours— Francis Bacon
b : to extinguish the guilt incurred by
2 obsolete : to put an end to

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Other Words from expiate

expiable \ ˈek-​spē-​ə-​bəl How to pronounce expiate (audio) \ adjective
expiator \ ˈek-​spē-​ˌā-​tər How to pronounce expiate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for expiate


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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 expiare, Latin for to atone for, a root that in turn traces to the Latin term for "pious." Expiate originally referred to warding off evil by using sacred rites or to using sacred rites to cleanse or purify something. By the 17th century, Shakespeare (and others) were using it to mean "to put an end to": "But when in thee time's furrows I behold, / Then look I death my days should expiate" (Sonnet 22). Those senses have since become obsolete, and now only the "extinguish the guilt" and "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 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, "The Scientific Underpinnings and Impacts of Shame," 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, "Jonathan Vaughters Goes Deep into Cycling’s Dirty Past," 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, "Springtime for Internet Taxers," 21 June 2018 The goat sent away was meant to expiate the sins of the community. Rabbi Avi Weiss, Jewish Journal, "A hairbreadth can be the whole difference," 23 Apr. 2018 The fantasy pleases her a good deal and seems to help expiate her feelings of guilt toward her husband. Charles Champlin, latimes.com, "'Belle de Jour' is a sexy but sad drama," 13 Apr. 2018 Either way, that’s a lot of money, of course, but the point is not to expiate upon the market forces driving prices in the funeral industry. John Hirschauer, National Review, "Vox Ruins Funerals in a Quest for Environmental Justice," 2 Sep. 2017

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

circa 1500, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

History and Etymology for expiate

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

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Time Traveler for expiate Time Traveler

The first known use of expiate was circa 1500

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Cite this Entry

“Expiate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expiate. Accessed 9 Mar. 2021.

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English Language Learners Definition of expiate

formal : to do something as a way to show that you are sorry about doing something bad

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