ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry | \ ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtȯr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio) \

Definition of exculpatory

: tending or serving to exculpate

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No one will blame you for having questions about the origins of exculpatory. The adjective comes from a combination of the prefix ex-, meaning "out of" or "away from," and the Latin noun culpa, which means "blame" or "guilt." Something exculpatory, then, frees one from accusations. Culpa has given English a number of other words, including the verb exculpate ("to clear from alleged fault or guilt"). The related but lesser-known terms inculpate ("to incriminate") and inculpatory ("incriminating") are antonyms of exculpate and exculpatory. Culpable is a synonym of blameworthy, and mea culpa refers to a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error.

Examples of exculpatory in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Rejecting Fisher's defense, Alito sketched a situation involving testimony that could be both helpful and harmful, exculpatory and incriminating. Joan Biskupic, CNN, 8 Oct. 2021 In the same hearing, Martina Avalos, a public defender, accused prosecutors of routinely failing to hand over potentially exculpatory evidence to the defense in a timely matter. Heather Knight, San Francisco Chronicle, 24 Oct. 2021 The documents, filed Friday, allege that prosecutors failed to preserve potentially exculpatory evidence and that the two acting secretaries of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the time of the investigation weren’t properly appointed. From Usa Today Network And Wire Reports, USA TODAY, 25 Aug. 2021 The team was supposed to pass along all data prosecutors could properly use for the case — including expense records that also had to be turned over to Avenatti as potentially exculpatory evidence. Michael Finnegan, Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2021 The Brady list takes its name from Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision that requires prosecutors to turn over all potentially exculpatory evidence to defendants in criminal cases. Monivette Cordeiro, orlandosentinel.com, 4 Aug. 2021 Blagojevich charges that the vote by state lawmakers was unconstitutional, claiming he wasn’t allowed to call and question witnesses and alleges he was prevented from his right to offer potentially exculpatory evidence. Paul Steinhauser, Fox News, 3 Aug. 2021 Still, defense lawyers said in a motion that prosecutors should have turned over details about the investigation under their duty to provide exculpatory information to Bahena Rivera. NBC News, 28 May 2021 According to Kate Levine, a law professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, prosecutors often present exculpatory information during cases involving law-enforcement officers. Abe Streep, The New Yorker, 21 May 2021

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

1781, in the meaning defined above

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The first known use of exculpatory was in 1781

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Last Updated

16 Dec 2021

Cite this Entry

“Exculpatory.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/exculpatory. Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

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More Definitions for exculpatory


ex·​cul·​pa·​to·​ry | \ ek-ˈskəl-pə-ˌtōr-ē How to pronounce exculpatory (audio) \

Legal Definition of exculpatory

: tending or serving to exculpate an exculpatory clause in a contract — compare inculpatory

More from Merriam-Webster on exculpatory

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for exculpatory

Britannica English: Translation of exculpatory for Arabic Speakers


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