Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From exculpate +‎ -ory (suffix forming adjectives with the sense ‘of or pertaining to, serving for’).[1] Exculpate is derived from Medieval Latin exculpātus and Latin exculptus, the perfect passive participle of exculpō, from ex- (prefix meaning ‘out, away’) + culpa (defect, fault; crime) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *kʷelp-).[2]


  • (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ɛksˈkʌlpətəɹi/, /ɛksˈkʌlpətɹi/
  • (file)
  • (US) IPA(key): /ɛksˈkʌlpəˌtɒɹi/
  • Hyphenation: ex‧cul‧pat‧o‧ry


exculpatory (comparative more exculpatory, superlative most exculpatory)

  1. Tending to excuse or clear of wrongdoing.
    Synonyms: disculpatory, exonerative, vindicatory
    Antonyms: criminative, criminatory, incriminating, incriminatory, inculpatory, nonexculpatory
    • 1737, “Information for His Majesty’s Advocate, and Mr. Hugh Forbes, Advocate, Procurator Fiscal of the High Court of Admiralty, against Thomas McAdam, and James Long, Pannels”, in Extract of the Proceedings before James Graham of Airth, Esq; Judge of the High Court of Admiralty in Scotland, in the Action at the Instance of Duncan Forbes, Esq; His Majesty’s Advocate, and Mr. Hugh Forbes, Advocate, Procurator Fiscal of the Said High Court, against Thomas McAdams Souldier, and James Long Corporal, in the Regiment of Foot Commanded by Colonel —— Hamilton. Laid before the House Pursuant to Their Lordship’s Order April 18, 1737, London: Printed by John Baskett, [], OCLC 54233037, page 12:
      [I]t remains only to examine the Relevancy of the two general exculpatory Defences pled for the Pannells.
    • 1785 September 17, “The Lounger”, in The British Essayists: [], volume IV, number 33, university edition, London: Published by Jones and Company, [], published 1828, OCLC 797893044, page 67, column 1:
      [W]e shall have petulance and inattention, instead of bashful civility, because it is the fashion with fine folks to be easy; and rusticity shall be set off with impudence, like a grogram waistcoat with tinsel binding, that only makes its coarseness more disgusting.
    • 1770 December 6, [John] Dunning, “Debate in the Commons on Serjeant [John] Glynn’s Motion for a Committee to Enquire into the Administration of Criminal Justice, and the Proceedings of the Judges in Westminster Hall, Particularly in Cases Relating to the Liberty of the Press, and the Constitutional Power and Duty of Juries”, in [William Cobbett], editor, The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. [], volume XVI (A.D. 1765–1771), London: Printed by T[homas] C[urson] Hansard, [] for Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, & Brown; [et al.], published 1813, OCLC 20121995, column 1277:
      In the case of the King against Owen, the judge allowed the defendant to produce exculpatory evidence to the jury. In order to shew, that he had no malicious or traitorous intention in publishing the libel, with which he was charged, the court permitted him to plead, that during the rebellion, he had printed many papers in defence of the government and Hanoverian succession.
    • 1794, “The Life of Pope”, in The Poetical Works of Alexander Pope, Esq. [], Edinburgh: Printed by Mundell and Son, [], OCLC 221458027; republished in Robert Anderson, editor, The Works of the British Poets. [], volume VIII, London: Printed for John & Arthur Arch; and for Bell & Bradfute, and J. Mundell & Co. Edinburgh, 1795, OCLC 221535929, page ix, column 2:
      He [Alexander Pope] wrote an exculpatory letter to the Duke [James Brydges, 1st Duke of Chandos], who accepted of his excuſe, without believing his profeſſions.
    • 1800, [Maria Edgeworth], “An Hibernian Tale”, in Castle Rackrent, an Hibernian Tale. [], London: Printed for J[oseph] Johnson, [] [b]y J. Crowder, [], OCLC 1102765995, footnote, page 29:
      [T]hey always used the most abject language, and the most humble tone and posture—"Please your honour,—and please your honour's honour," they knew must be repeated as a charm at the beginning and end of every equivocating, exculpatory, or supplicatory sentence— [...]
    • 1803, [Charles Aldis], “Letter V”, in A Defence of the Character and Conduct of the Late Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Founded on Principles of Nature and Reason, as Applied to the Peculiar Circumstances of Her Case; in a Series of Letters to a Lady, London: Printed for James Wallis, [], by Slatter and Munday, [], OCLC 144680040, page 71:
      This apology, I am not unaware, has been advanced by some of our heroine's friends, and been admitted as exculpatory by others.
    • 1868, Alexander M[ansfield] Burrill, “Circumstantial Evidence, as an Instrument of Judicial Investigation”, in A Treatise on the Nature, Principles and Rules of Circumstantial Evidence, Especially that of the Presumptive Kind, in Criminal Cases, New York, N.Y.: Baker, Voorhis & Co. [], OCLC 60724961, section II (The Facts Proved, Constituting the Materials of the Evidence, and Basis of Inference or Presumption), page 144:
      Facts, seen to be of an oppressive character, are sought to be got rid of, by the usual expedients of cross-examination, proof of facts of a contradictory, explanatory, or exculpatory tendency, or, in the last resort, attacks on the veracity of the witnesses.
    • 1953 January, Gerald O. Dykstra, “The User of a Bank’s Night Depository Facilities”, in J. Philip Wernette, editor, Michigan Business Review, volume V, number I, Ann Arbor, Mich.: School of Business Administration, University of Michigan, ISSN 0026-2056, OCLC 851321619, page 20:
      Because the patronage is compulsory and bargaining strength is unequal, it is considered as against public policy to permit a professional bailee to accept fees for the safekeeping of goods and then by an exculpatory clause in the bailment contract to relieve itself of all liability—even for its own negligence.
    • 2000, “The Emergence of National Socialism: Introduction”, in Neil Gregor, editor, Nazism (Oxford Readers), Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, published 2012, →ISBN, page 59:
      [P]ointing to the fact that [Adolf] Hitler himself had been Austrian helped found the exculpatory myth that Germany had been the 'first country occupied by Nazism', as if the millions of people who had voted for and joined the Nazi party had been anything other than Germans.
    • 2008, H. L. Pohlman, “Civilian Trials of High-profile Terrorists: U.S. v. Moussaoui”, in Terrorism and the Constitution: The Post-9/11 Cases, Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, →ISBN, part II (Briefs Filed in Moussaoui), page 199:
      Although the government refused to permit videotaped depositions of the three detainees, it conceded in its brief to the Fourth Circuit that it had an obligation under the Due Process Clause to turn over to [Zacarias] Moussaoui any exculpatory evidence in its possession, including any written summaries of exculpatory statements made by the detainees to their interrogators.
    • 2013 August, Michael W. Graves, “Case Management and Report Writing”, in Bernard Goodwin, editor, Digital Archaeology: The Art and Science of Digital Forensics, Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Addison-Wesley, →ISBN, page 392:
      The goal of the investigation is to excavate and present evidence, incriminatory or exculpatory, directly relevant to the complaint issued when the case was first handed over.

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]



  1. ^ exculpatory, adj.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1894; “exculpatory, adj.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  2. ^ Compare “exculpate, v.”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, 1894; “exculpate, v.”, in Lexico, Dictionary.com; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.