extenuate

verb
ex·ten·u·ate | \ik-ˈsten-yə-ˌwāt, -yü-ˌāt\
extenuated; extenuating

Definition of extenuate 

transitive verb

1 : to lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of (something, such as a fault or offense) by making partial excuses : mitigate There is no economic analysis that can extenuate bigotry.— Leon Wieseltier … all the lies that society tells to justify its values and extenuate its conduct …— Robert Penn Warren — see also extenuating

2 : to lessen the strength or effect of (something) : weaken … it was true that he was an old friend and that … she felt a desire not to extenuate such ties.— Henry James

3a archaic : to make light of

b obsolete : disparage

4 archaic : to make thin or emaciated

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Other Words from extenuate

extenuator \ik-ˈsten-yə-ˌwā-tər, -yü-ˌā- \ noun
extenuatory \ik-ˈsten-yə-wə-ˌtȯr-ē, -yü-ə- \ adjective

Did You Know?

You have probably encountered the phrase "extenuating circumstances," which is one of the more common ways that this word turns up in modern times. "Extenuate" was borrowed into English in the 16th century from Latin extenuatus, the past participle of the verb "extenuare," which was itself formed by combining "ex-" and the verb tenuare, meaning "to make thin." In addition to the surviving senses, "extenuate" once meant "to make light of" and "to make thin or emaciated"; although those senses are now obsolete, the connection to "tenuare" can be traced somewhat more clearly through them. In addition, "extenuate" gave us the adjective extenuatory, meaning "tending to make less."

Examples of extenuate in a Sentence

don't even try to extenuate their vandalism of the cemetery with the old refrain of “Boys will be boys”

Recent Examples on the Web

There was other extenuating evidence that was attached. Fox News, "Strassel, Chaffetz on claims of Trump campaign surveillance," 22 May 2018 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended other U.S. troops involved in the battle, suggesting that extenuating circumstances led to the struggle to recover Sgt. Dan Lamothe, Washington Post, "Military investigation of Niger disaster finds numerous failures in planning," 10 May 2018 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended other U.S. troops involved in the battle, suggesting that extenuating circumstances led to the struggle to recover Sgt. Dan Lamothe And Missy Ryan, BostonGlobe.com, "Military investigation of Niger debacle finds numerous failures in planning," 10 May 2018 Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended other U.S. troops involved in the battle, suggesting that extenuating circumstances led to the struggle to recover Sgt. Dan Lamothe And Missy Ryan, chicagotribune.com, "Military investigation of Niger disaster finds numerous failures in planning," 10 May 2018 Secondly, the accents employed by the actors make a great deal of the dialogue quite difficult to understand, a problem extenuated by the less-than-friendly acoustics of the Marquette Theatre. Theodore P. Mahne, NOLA.com, "Southern Rep's 'Eclipsed' shows women's defiant spirit in face of dehumanizing war and oppression," 23 Apr. 2018 Swaps aren't all bad... When extenuating circumstances hit, airlines may be able to switch airports at your request, to make your journey smoother. Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler, "What to Do When an Airline Changes Your Departure Airport," 13 Apr. 2018 Clearly, the circumstances have been extenuating, yet no vote of confidence has been forthcoming. Nate Davis, USA TODAY, "NFL hot seat rankings: Bengals' Marvin Lewis, Bears' John Fox coaching out the string?," 12 Dec. 2017

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

1529, in the meaning defined at sense 3a

History and Etymology for extenuate

Latin extenuatus, past participle of extenuare, from ex- + tenuis thin — more at thin

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The first known use of extenuate was in 1529

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