ex​on​er​ate | \ ig-?z?-n?-?rt How to pronounce exonerate (audio) , eg-\
exonerated; exonerating

Definition of exonerate

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transitive verb

1 : to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship
2 : to clear from accusation or blame

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Other Words from exonerate

exoneration \ ig-​?z?-​n?-​?r-​sh?n How to pronounce exoneration (audio) , eg-​ \ noun
exonerative \ ig-​?z?-​n?-​?r-​tiv How to pronounce exonerative (audio) , eg-​ \ adjective

Synonyms & Antonyms for exonerate


absolve, acquit, clear, exculpate, vindicate


criminate, incriminate

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Choose the Right Synonym for exonerate

exculpate, absolve, exonerate, acquit, vindicate mean to free from a charge. exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault often in a matter of small importance. exculpating himself from the charge of overenthusiasm absolve implies a release either from an obligation that binds the conscience or from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin. cannot be absolved of blame exonerate implies a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any attendant suspicion of blame or guilt. exonerated by the investigation acquit implies a formal decision in one's favor with respect to a definite charge. voted to acquit the defendant vindicate may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly, and implies a clearing effected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame. her judgment was vindicated

Where does exonerate come from?

We won't blame you if you don't know the origins of today's word. Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden" (onus itself lives on with that meaning in English). In its earliest uses, dating from the 16th century, exonerate was used in the context of physical burdensa ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."

Examples of exonerate in a Sentence

the results of the DNA fingerprinting finally exonerated the man, but only after he had wasted 10 years of his life in prison

Recent Examples on the Web

In the end, Whymper and Taugwalder were exonerated, but the controversy continued. Mark Jenkins, National Geographic, "How the pursuit of one European peak gave rise to modern mountaineering," 1 Aug. 2019 He was convicted and imprisoned, and later exonerated in 1906. Matt Mcnulty, PEOPLE.com, "Roman Polanski Returns to Spotlight After Being Ousted from Academy for Rape Conviction," 25 July 2019 Mann also found the Death Penalty Information Centers list of 166 prisoners who were once sentenced to be executed, but later exonerated of the charges that put them on death row. Cory Shaffer, cleveland.com, "As prosecutors seek death penalty in Parma Heights pen-pal slayings, victims son denounces executions," 22 July 2019 The imposition of a WNBA suspension before the legal process arguably plays out therefore presents an uncomfortable risk: if Williams is later exonerated in court, the WNBA will have punished an innocent player. Michael Mccann, SI.com, "Breaking Down What to Expect After Riquna Williams's 10-Game Suspension by the WNBA," 18 July 2019 Jewell was identified as a possible suspect but later exonerated in a case that attracted worldwide attention. USA TODAY, "Stacey Abrams: 'There's going to be an exodus' if Georgia's fetal-heartbeat bill stands," 26 June 2019 Based on the bite mark evidence, Stinson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1985 but exonerated in 2009 after a panel of experts debunked the dentists' conclusions and DNA led to the real killer. Bruce Vielmetti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Prosecutor felt suspect was innocent, but dentists convinced him bite marks proved otherwise. They were wrong.," 26 June 2019 Trump also refused to apologize for his past stance that the Central Park Five, a group of black teenagers who were convicted on charges of raping a white woman in New York and later exonerated, deserved the death penalty. Author: Matt Viser, Sean Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News, "Biden faces backlash over comments about civility of his past work with racist senators," 20 June 2019 DuVernay was chatting with reporter Van Lathan about her latest Netflix series, which tells the story of the 1989 Central Park jogger case and the five men who were wrongfully accused and later exonerated. Essence, "Ava DuVernay Has A 'Real Issue' With Being Called 'Auntie': 'Am I That Old?!'," 4 June 2019

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

1524, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for exonerate

Middle English, from Latin exoneratus, past participle of exonerare to unburden, from ex- + oner-, onus load

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More Definitions for exonerate



English Language Learners Definition of exonerate

formal : to prove that someone is not guilty of a crime or responsible for a problem, bad situation, etc.


transitive verb
ex​on​er​ate | \ ig-?z?-n?-?rt, eg- How to pronounce exonerate (audio) \
exonerated; exonerating

Legal Definition of exonerate

1 : to relieve especially of a charge, obligation, or hardship
2 : to clear from accusation or blame compare acquit, exculpate

History and Etymology for exonerate

Latin exonerare to relieve, free, discharge, from ex- out + onerare to burden, from oner-, onus load

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Comments on exonerate

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


a usually brief trip or an expedition

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