Definition of extenuate in English:



  • 1Make (guilt or an offense) seem less serious or more forgivable.

    ‘there were extenuating circumstances that caused me to say the things I did’
    • ‘Zero tolerance means that if you test positive for prohibited substance use, then barring any exculpatory or extenuating circumstances, it is likely that you will be issued with a termination notice or reduced in rank.’
    • ‘‘Unless there are the most extenuating circumstances, a person convicted of murder can expect no clemency until he or she has served an extremely lengthy sentence,’ Mr Holmes said.’
    • ‘And there are other considerations-the value of the stolen property, the absence of any extenuating circumstances like dire need, or repentance and restoration of property.’
    • ‘Labour leader Ian Male said last night that the increases could not be morally justified, although there were extenuating circumstances.’
    • ‘There were no extenuating circumstances nor can the Board imagine any that could have justified his continuance.’
    • ‘According to provincial law, when a death occurs in Regina a physician or, in extenuating circumstances, a coroner must complete a Medical Certificate of Death with respect to the deceased.’
    • ‘There are extenuating circumstances, her ignorance, her naivety, her youth (not a crime, one character tries to reassure her), and another's scheming and deception.’
    • ‘Fialkowski says that students with a high remaining balance due to extenuating circumstances could request a refund or exemption, but that this is rare, and only granted on an individual basis.’
    • ‘Effective in the 2003 fall semester, the university will change the way it handles requests by students for course withdrawal under extenuating circumstances.’
    • ‘Members of the SWC jury said, while commenting on one case, that infanticide is an abominable crime and those who commit it cannot be exonerated, whatever the extenuating circumstances.’
    • ‘During this review, additional information was made available to suggest that there were extenuating circumstances and that the actions of the officer were not representative of his normal conduct.’
    • ‘In Florida, you can be held for 21 days before you're released on your own recognizance unless the state has some kind of extenuating circumstances to hold you.’
    • ‘Escudie said ‘a small number’ have been granted emergency extensions by military commanders because of extenuating circumstances, including deaths in the family.’
    • ‘I do think the extenuating circumstances mean that a transfer is necessary.’
    • ‘Orders came down that anyone who was currently out of status, regardless of any pending applications or extenuating circumstances, was to be automatically detained.’
    • ‘She is unconcerned with explanations, alternative interpretations of the evidence (which is flimsy to begin with), extenuating circumstances.’
    • ‘Despite anguished pleas of extenuating circumstances by the desperate father, the school system has so far adamantly insisted that automatic punishments for weapon possession in school are inviolate.’
    • ‘The two also have a stimulating discussion about whether murder can ever be justified by extenuating circumstances.’
    • ‘This still leaves scope for the sentence to be lessened in the light of extenuating circumstances to do with the crime itself.’
    • ‘If you currently have an approved vacation, contact your CTM, Delivery Manager, Captain to establish alternate dates or justify extenuating circumstances.’
    mitigating, excusing, exonerative, palliating, palliative, justifying, justificatory, vindicating, exculpatory
    moderating, qualifying, softening, tempering, diminishing, lessening
    forgive, pardon, absolve, exonerate, acquit
    View synonyms
  • 2literary Make (someone) thin.

    ‘drawings of extenuated figures’
    • ‘Both outfits extenuated the tans and muscles that had grown over the summer.’
    • ‘Its rather angular and extenuated figures are reminiscent of those of a pyxis in Berkeley which has already been discussed in its relation to our painter.’
    • ‘A doctrinal synthesis may be a negative guide, eliminating erroneous interpretation, but only in a very extenuated sense would it be a positive aid to interpretation.’
    • ‘On one wall, there is a gallery of grave, extenuated figures that recall El Greco.’


Late Middle English (in the sense make thin, emaciate): from Latin extenuat- made thin from the verb extenuare (based on tenuis thin).