mea culpa


mea cul·​pa ˌmā-ə-ˈku̇l-pə How to pronounce mea culpa (audio)
: a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error
The mayor's public mea culpa didn't satisfy his critics.

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Mea culpa, which means "through my fault" in Latin, comes from a prayer of confession in the Catholic Church. Said by itself, it's an exclamation of apology or remorse that is used to mean "It was my fault" or "I apologize." Mea culpa is also a noun, however. A newspaper might issue a mea culpa for printing inaccurate information, or a politician might give a speech making mea culpas for past wrongdoings. Mea culpa is one of many English terms that derive from the Latin culpa, meaning "guilt." Some other examples are culpable ("meriting condemnation or blame especially as wrong or harmful"), culprit ("one guilty of a crime or a fault"), and exculpate ("to clear from alleged fault or guilt").

Example Sentences

The mayor's public mea culpa didn't satisfy his critics.
Recent Examples on the Web Tuesday’s mea culpa was a direct and unmitigated apology from a wounded man coming to understand his own role in a tragedy. Bill Oram, oregonlive, 11 Oct. 2022 When WeWork, the once high-flying office space company, was forced to call off its Wall Street debut in late 2019, it was seen as a mea culpa for the startup world. Julia Horowitz, CNN, 13 May 2022 Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, is offering a mea culpa to his ex Kim Kardashian. Elise Brisco, USA TODAY, 22 Sep. 2022 After images of Erich Schwer wearing blackface in a high school yearbook photo surfaced this week on reddit, The Bachelorette season 19 contestant took to Instagram to offer a mea culpa for the offensive image. Kristen Baldwin,, 9 Sep. 2022 So, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, the league issued a formal mea culpa. Megan O’matz, ProPublica, 18 Aug. 2022 Much like Zach, Aven begins his chat with Rachel by offering a big old mea culpa. Kristen Baldwin,, 14 Sep. 2022 Neumann walked away virtually unscathed, with a $1.7 billion package, and no mea culpa. Hessie Jones, Forbes, 26 Aug. 2022 After an aborted WeWork IPO in 2019, SoftBank bailed out the company at a valuation $39 billion lower than its peak, sparking an extensive mea culpa to investors from Mr. Son. Eliot Brown, WSJ, 2 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mea culpa.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Word History


Latin, through my fault

First Known Use

1602, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of mea culpa was in 1602


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Cite this Entry

“Mea culpa.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Nov. 2022.

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