Definition of reprieve in English:



  • 1Cancel or postpone the punishment of (someone, especially someone condemned to death)

    ‘under the new regime, prisoners under sentence of death were reprieved’
    • ‘But Allah reprieves no soul when its term expires and Allah has knowledge of all your actions.’
    • ‘The conspirators, a group of teachers and lawyers led by an educational theorist called Picornell, were condemned to death but reprieved on French insistence when peace was concluded.’
    • ‘It also experienced a lower level of executions than the early 17th century, with many convicted persons being reprieved, notably before being transported to the American colonies.’
    • ‘When the Home Secretary reprieved Edmunds's death sentence on ground of insanity many believed he based this decision on her gender and class.’
    • ‘The victim's fellow prisoners may bang the hot water pipes in sympathy but they also bet their Sunday bacon on whether or not he'll get a reprieve.’
    • ‘‘I only reprieved your penalty because I needed something quickly and you were the only one who could undergo the mission in time,’ Hador replied coldly.’
    • ‘In 1543 he was condemned to be burnt as a heretic for his adherence to Calvinism, but he was reprieved by Henry VIII and on his release from prison returned to St George's.’
    • ‘That the Home Secretary reprieved Edmunds on ground of insanity rather than simply commuting her death sentence to a life term (the far more common response to a death sentence) is intriguing.’
    • ‘Rudge is hanged, Barnaby is reprieved from the gallows at the last moment, and Chester is killed by Haredale in a duel.’
    • ‘His trespass is never discovered, and he revels each afternoon in the ‘fresh air, physical release, and space: I felt like a prisoner reprieved.’’
    • ‘After the trial, amid much popular speculation over the justice of the sentences passed, authorities pardoned one of the prisoners and reprieved another.’
    • ‘Only O'Sullivan was reprieved at the last minute because of his youth.’
    • ‘They laughed like men reprieved, and when the bottle of whisky was finished Staten gripping it by the neck flung it far out to sea.’
    • ‘An examination of the role of the Home Office in reprieving condemned prisoners can be found in R. Chadwick's Bureaucratic Mercy: The Home Office and the Treatment of Capital Cases in Victorian Britain.’
    • ‘Acquittal rates were high and infanticide was the only form of homicide for which women might be reprieved or pardoned.’
    • ‘The exchange between the mayor, Sheriff Hartwell and him when he first appears with the reprieve from the governor is simply priceless.’
    • ‘The jaw fracture made it impossible to hang him humanely and for this reason he was reprieved!’
    • ‘Antipholus of Ephesus, finally obtaining the ransom money he sent for, offers to pay it to redeem Egeon, but the Duke reprieves the old man without payment.’
    • ‘The necessary delays in explaining the new evidence, the mechanics of ordering a reprieve and so on are then all simply omitted.’
    • ‘Zhang himself was sentenced to death for his action, though Lin was immediately reprieved and placed under arrest.’
    grant a stay of execution to, cancel someone's punishment, commute someone's punishment, postpone someone's punishment, remit someone's punishment
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    1. 1.1 Abandon or postpone plans to close or abolish (something)
      ‘the threatened pits could be reprieved’
      • ‘However, Hewat will not be able to make the case for reprieving the centre as it has made it clear they do not intend to be at this week's meeting.’
      • ‘But now the town hall is reprieving seven of the toilets and is to spend more than £10,400 keeping them open, following a wave of protest.’
      save, rescue, grant a stay of execution to, give a respite to
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  • 1A cancellation or postponement of a punishment.

    ‘he accepted the death sentence and refused to appeal for a reprieve’
    • ‘Local officials were prolific too in petitioning central government for pardons and reprieves for the condemned.’
    • ‘Official reprieves and pardons were not uncommon, and some such acts of mercy were purposely announced only when the convicted stood on the scaffold and spectators had assembled.’
    • ‘When Anabaptists in 1575 and Jesuits in 1581 were condemned to death, Foxe wrote vehement letters to Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers, begging reprieves.’
    • ‘An Estonian skier and a Latvian bobsledder gained late reprieves from drug bans on technicalities.’
    • ‘In the corner was a chipped jug, and on the walls were carvings in the stone, names, crude drawings of gladiators, in their armour, tallies of battles won, of reprieves granted.’
    • ‘He or she could grant pardons and reprieves, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, make appointments and enter into treaties, subject to the approval of two-thirds of the senators present.’
    • ‘He has faced numerous anxious moments over the years, spending time in immigration detention centres and winning last-minute reprieves.’
    • ‘The president can grant reprieves and pardons (except in the case of impeachment).’
    • ‘Ibrahim recently received a reprieve when an Egyptian court released him and ordered a retrial - after a strong protest from the Bush Administration.’
    stay of execution, cancellation of punishment, postponement of punishment, remission, suspension of punishment, respite
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    1. 1.1 A cancellation or postponement of an undesirable event.
      ‘a mother who faced eviction has been given a reprieve’
      • ‘An increased supply of rental accommodation has resulted in a welcome reprieve from spiralling rents for tenants around the country, and particularly in Dublin.’
      • ‘Instead, after a reprieve in 1833, the central government engaged in more and more trade protectionism and centralized tyranny, which helped lead to war.’
      • ‘However, the foreign earnings deduction, which is due to expire at the end of this month did not receive a reprieve.’
      • ‘Another possible outcome is that global uncertainty could give the US dollar a reprieve from its recent slide.’
      • ‘I once spent hours sketching, a wonderful reprieve from the endless flow of words my work entails.’
      • ‘Instead, the film buckles under the weight of its subject matter and resorts to a blur of fraught chases, narrow scrapes and miraculous reprieves.’
      • ‘After many reprieves, the company, one of South Australia's biggest employers, may be consigned to history tonight.’
      • ‘The bank won a reprieve by coming back to us with an offer we couldn't refuse.’
      • ‘Brief reprieves, however, from a society riven with sectarianism are possible by visiting some of Northern Ireland's wonderful countryside.’
      • ‘Despite these reprieves, the style of the show is somehow off, the music awkward, the direction formless.’
      • ‘Worse, the reprieve came too late for the Glazers.’
      • ‘Those who cannot afford to buy bonds, or who prefer to invest in productive endeavors, must pay in future taxes for the reprieve of not being taxed in the present.’
      • ‘Therefore, what they all need is a temporary reprieve, a carefully engineered environment of apparent dollar strength that will allow them to quietly unload what they could never openly propose to sell.’
      • ‘The theater becomes a site of self-forgetfulness for audiences who experience a reprieve from disciplines associated with memory.’
      • ‘We had a brief reprieve earlier this week from the oppressive heat of the Washington summer, but the last couple days have been dangerously hot.’
      • ‘Instead, they have won reprieves because their economies are still developing.’
      • ‘This may be a welcome reprieve, but taxpayers and their advisors should still consider the proposed rules when evaluating investments.’
      • ‘I actually laughed out loud during the scene, partly as a temporary reprieve from the tension, partly out of sheer admiration for Anderson's gifts.’
      • ‘From here it was basically downhill, though with occasional reprieves.’
      • ‘Where it hasn't been achieved, those hospitals have had discussions with the government and there's been reprieves, ‘he says.’’


Late 15th century (as the past participle repryed): from Anglo-Norman French repris, past participle of reprendre, from Latin re- ‘back’ + prehendere ‘seize’. The insertion of -v- (16th century) remains unexplained. Sense development has undergone a reversal, from the early meaning ‘send back to prison’, via ‘postpone a legal process’, to the current sense ‘rescue from impending punishment’.