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From Latin extenuātus, past participle of extenuāre (to make thin, loosen, weaken) from ex (out) + tenuāre (to make thin), from tenuis (thin).



extenuate (third-person singular simple present extenuates, present participle extenuating, simple past and past participle extenuated)

  1. (transitive) To make thin or slender; to draw out so as to lessen the thickness.
    • Grew
      His body behind the head becomes broad, from whence it is again extenuated all the way to the tail.
    • Charlotte Brontë, Shirley
      To this extenuated spectre, perhaps, a crumb is not thrown once a year, but when ahungered and athirst to famine—when all humanity has forgotten the dying tenant of a decaying house—Divine Mercy remembers the mourner []
  2. (intransitive) To become thinner.
  3. (transitive) To lessen; to palliate; to lessen or weaken the force of; to diminish the conception of, as crime, guilt, faults, ills, accusations, etc.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4 Scene 1
      CLAUDIO. I know what you would say: if I have known her,
      You'll say she did embrace me as a husband,
      And so extenuate the 'forehand sin: No, Leonato,
      I never tempted her with word too large;
      But, as a brother to his sister, show'd
      Bashful sincerity and comely love.
    • I. Taylor
      Let us extenuate, conceal, adorn the unpleasing reality.
  4. (obsolete) To lower or degrade; to detract from.
    • Milton
      Who can extenuate thee?



Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for extenuate in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)





  1. second-person plural present active imperative of extenuō