ex·​ten·​u·​at·​ing | \ ik-ˈsten-yə-ˌwā-tiŋ How to pronounce extenuating (audio) , -yü-ˌā-\

Definition of extenuating

: tending to lessen the real or apparent seriousness of something (such as a crime, offense, or fault) : providing a partial justification or excuse for something … giving defense attorneys more leeway to fill in the story in the sentencing phase, during which mitigating or extenuating evidence was allowed.— Joann Wypijewski usually used in the phrase extenuating circumstances Fare waivers are used by airlines to forgive advance-purchase requirements or other price markups when passengers have extenuating circumstances, such as a death in the family or a mistake in ticketing.The Wall Street JournalIn the real world, most prosecutors crave to be in private practice, where they would defend the same people whose crimes they claim, as prosecutors, debase society, offering the same extenuating circumstances that are the object of their prosecutorial scorn.— John Gregory Dunne

Did You Know?

Extenuating is almost always used today before "circumstances". Extenuating circumstances are an important concept in the law. If you steal to feed your children, you're naturally less guilty than someone who steals just to get richer; if you kill someone in self-defense, that's obviously an extenuating circumstance that makes your act different from murder. Juries will usually consider extenuating circumstances (even when they're instructed not to), and most judges will listen carefully to an argument about extenuating circumstances as well. And they work outside of the courtroom as well; if you miss your daughter's performance in the middle-school pageant, she may forgive you if it was because you had to race Tigger to the vet's emergency room.

First Known Use of extenuating

1633, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of extenuating was in 1633

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English Language Learners Definition of extenuating

used to describe something (such as an unusual situation) that makes something (such as a crime or a mistake) seem less serious or deserving of blame usually used in the phrase extenuating circumstances

More from Merriam-Webster on extenuating

Nglish: Translation of extenuating for Spanish Speakers

Comments on extenuating

What made you want to look up extenuating? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a period when something is suspended

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