ex·​ten·​u·​a·​tion ik-ˌsten-yə-ˈwā-shən How to pronounce extenuation (audio)
: the act of extenuating something or the state of being extenuated
especially : partial justification
… it was never her aspiration to express herself virtuously so much as cleverly—a point to be remembered in extenuation of her words, which were usually worse than she was. George Eliot
The best we can say in extenuation is to point out that glory rather than greed prompted this act of injustice to a seaman. Samuel Eliot Morison
: something extenuating
especially : a partial excuse
He persuades us that … he was poor and that he was financially burdened with a wife and four children. One shudders for any contemporary wretch who would come before Safire's pen with a similar budget of extenuations. Thomas Flanagan

Examples of extenuation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Not surprisingly, fellow-travelers on the left criticized Conquest either from a wish to disbelieve the Soviet horrors or from an ideological sympathy that compelled extenuation of them. Peter J. Travers, National Review, 29 Mar. 2022

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

Word History

First Known Use

circa 1543, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of extenuation was circa 1543

Dictionary Entries Near extenuation

Cite this Entry

“Extenuation.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extenuation. Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on extenuation

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!