Word of the Day : March 21, 2015


verb EK-spee-ayt


1 : to extinguish the guilt incurred by

2 : to make amends for

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 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.


Though the editorial characterizes the mayor's failure to disclose the details of the meeting as a lapse that cannot be expiated, most citizens seem ready to forgive all.

"The ethical ambiguity of Szuml's role as Sonderkommando-a 'gray zone,' as Primo Levi described it, victim verging on perpetrator-is expiated to a degree by an act of self-sacrifice." - Tova Reich, Washington Post, September 25, 2014

Test Your Memory

What former Word of the Day means "rigorously strict or just" and is derived from the name of one of the three judges of the underworld in Greek mythology? The answer is…


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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