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See also: exténuation


Alternative forms[edit]


An adaptation of extenuātiōn-, the oblique stem of the Latin extenuātiō (a thinning or diminishing”, “rarefaction”; rhetoric “a lessening”, “diminution”, “extenuation), noun of action from extenuō (I thin, reduce, or diminish). Equivalent to extenuate +‎ -(t)ion. Compare the French exténuation.



extenuation (countable and uncountable, plural extenuations)

  1. (countable and uncountable) The action of extenuating; extenuated condition.
    1. The action or process of making or becoming thin; an instance of this; a shrunken condition; leanness, emaciation.
      • 1576, Baker, Jewell of Health, page 171 a:
        This mightily helpeth the extenuation of members.
      • 1655, Culpepper, Riverius, i.v.19:
        A yong man…had an extenuation for want of nourishment in his Limbs.
      • 1707, Floyer, Physic. Pulse-Watch, page 183:
        Galen commends tepid Baths for…curing all Extenuations.
      • 1781 October 27th, Johnson, Let. Mrs. Thrale:
        The extenuation is her only bad symptom.
      • 1825, Scott, Betrothed, xxx:
        The female…exhibited…some symptoms of extenuation.
      • 1828, Biog. in Ann. Reg., page 474/2:
        Some pallid from extenuation.
    2. (of air, obsolete) Making less dense; rarefaction.
      • 1655–60, Stanley, Hist. Philos. (1701), page 64/2:
        Winds proceed from extenuation of the Air, by the Sun.
    3. (obsolete) The action or process of making slender or diminishing in bulk; an instance of this.
      • 1619, Donne, Serm. xiv, page 140:
        All Dilatation is some degree of Extenuation.
      • 1665, Sir T. Herbert, Trav. (1677), page 186:
        The Sea is the same at all seasons; what it gets by Rivers and showers, losing by exhalations and extenuations through the excessive heats…within the Torrid Zone.
      • 1777, Priestley, Matt. & Spir. (1782), volume I, chapter xix, page 229:
        Gregory the Great…says that God penetrates everything without extenuation.
    4. (obsolete) The action of making less or weak; and instance of this; a weakening, impoverishment. Also, mitigation (of blame or punishment).
      • 1542–3, Act 34–5 Hen. VIII, c. 18:
        The saide citie is much decaid…not a little to the extenuacion of that part of this realme.
      • 1596, Shaks., Henry IV, Part 1, act III, scene ii, 22:
        Such extenuation let me begge, As in reproofe of many Tales deuis’d…I may…Finde pardon on my true submission.
      • 1654, H. L’Estrange, Chas. I (1655), page 1:
        The gallantry of Henry’s heroique spirit tended somewhat to the…extenuation of Charles his glory.
      • 1707, Atterbury, Serm. v. (1723), volume II, page 159:
        What Deeds of Charity we have to alledge in Extenuation of our Punishment.
    5. The action of representing (something) as slight and trifling; underrating; an instance of this, a plea to this end; a modification in terms.
      • 1614, Bp. Hall, Recoll. Treat., page 209:
        Sometimes…wee humble ourselves lower than there is cause…And no lesse well doth God take these submisse extenuations of our selves.
      • 1621, Burton, Anat. Mel., ii.i.iv.ii.228:
        Through their…extenuation [of their grievance], wretchedness and peevishness they undo themselves.
      • 1722, De Foe, Plague (1840), page 6:
        Many died of it every day, so that now all our extenuations abated.
      • 1859, Mill, Liberty ii. (1865), page 13/2:
        The utmost they allow is an extenuation of its absolute necessity.
      • 1873, A.V.S. Sligo (translator), R.F. Calixte (author), The Life of the Venerable Anna Maria Taigi, page 303:
        The simple matter-of-fact style of the narrative is, from its unobtrusive character, more adapted for spiritual reading than the views and generalisations, and prologetic extenuations of more recent biographers.
      1. (rhetoric, obsolete) A figure in which a term is used which, in contrast with the more fitting term it supplants, understates or seeks to diminish the significance of something.
        • 1589, Puttenham, Eng. Poesie iii. xix. (Arb.), page 227:
          We call him the Disabler or figure of Extenuation.
        • 1657, J. Smith, Myst. Rhet., page 56:
          When for extenuation sake we use a lighter and more easie word or terme then the matter requires.
        • 1706, in Phillips
        • 1823, in Crabb, Technol. Dict.
    6. The action of lessening, or seeking to lessen, the guilt of (an offence or fault) by alleging partial excuses; and instance or means of doing this; a plea in mitigation of censure.
      • 1651, Hobbes, Leviath., ii., xxvii., page 156:
        Extenuation, by which the Crime, that seemed great, is made lesse.
      • ante 1674, Clarendon, Surv. Leviath. (1676), page 180:
        He…was to find excuses and extenuations for sins.
      • 1712, Addison, Spect., № 297, ¶ 1:
        Whatever may be said for the Extenuation of such Defects.
      • 1750, Johnson, Rambler, № 39, ¶ 7:
        It may be urged, in extenuation of this crime…that [etc.].
      • ante 1832, Bentham, Wks. (1843), volume I, page 174:
        The differences of castes…furnish a copious stock of extenuations…to different classes of offences.
      • 1839, Mackintosh, Eth. Philos., Wks. 1846, volume I, page 28:
        In extenuation of a noble error.
    7. (US, humorous, in the plural as “extenuations) Thin garments.
      • 1881 May, G.W. Cable in Scribner’s Mag., page 23:
        They were clad in silken extenuations from the throat to the feet.
      • 1883 September 12th, Pall Mall G., page 2/2:
        One side wore…extenuations of a…green colour.

Derived terms[edit]