Definition of reprieve in US English:



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

    ‘under the new regime, prisoners under sentence of death were reprieved’
    • ‘The exchange between the mayor, Sheriff Hartwell and him when he first appears with the reprieve from the governor is simply priceless.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Only O'Sullivan was reprieved at the last minute because of his youth.’
    • ‘Zhang himself was sentenced to death for his action, though Lin was immediately reprieved and placed under arrest.’
    • ‘But Allah reprieves no soul when its term expires and Allah has knowledge of all your actions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Rudge is hanged, Barnaby is reprieved from the gallows at the last moment, and Chester is killed by Haredale in a duel.’
    • ‘Acquittal rates were high and infanticide was the only form of homicide for which women might be reprieved or pardoned.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The necessary delays in explaining the new evidence, the mechanics of ordering a reprieve and so on are then all simply omitted.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When the Home Secretary reprieved Edmunds's death sentence on ground of insanity many believed he based this decision on her gender and class.’
    • ‘After the trial, amid much popular speculation over the justice of the sentences passed, authorities pardoned one of the prisoners and reprieved another.’
    • ‘The jaw fracture made it impossible to hang him humanely and for this reason he was reprieved!’
    • ‘His trespass is never discovered, and he revels each afternoon in the ‘fresh air, physical release, and space: I felt like a prisoner reprieved.’’
    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 put an end to (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.

    • ‘Local officials were prolific too in petitioning central government for pardons and reprieves for the condemned.’
    • ‘Ibrahim recently received a reprieve when an Egyptian court released him and ordered a retrial - after a strong protest from the Bush Administration.’
    • ‘When Anabaptists in 1575 and Jesuits in 1581 were condemned to death, Foxe wrote vehement letters to Queen Elizabeth and her courtiers, begging reprieves.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘An Estonian skier and a Latvian bobsledder gained late reprieves from drug bans on technicalities.’
    • ‘The president can grant reprieves and pardons (except in the case of impeachment).’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    stay of execution, cancellation of punishment, postponement of punishment, remission, suspension of punishment, respite
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    1. 1.1 A temporary escape from an undesirable fate or unpleasant situation.
      ‘a mother who faced eviction has been given a reprieve’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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, they have won reprieves because their economies are still developing.’
      • ‘Brief reprieves, however, from a society riven with sectarianism are possible by visiting some of Northern Ireland's wonderful countryside.’
      • ‘The bank won a reprieve by coming back to us with an offer we couldn't refuse.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Instead, after a reprieve in 1833, the central government engaged in more and more trade protectionism and centralized tyranny, which helped lead to war.’
      • ‘This may be a welcome reprieve, but taxpayers and their advisors should still consider the proposed rules when evaluating investments.’
      • ‘From here it was basically downhill, though with occasional reprieves.’
      • ‘I once spent hours sketching, a wonderful reprieve from the endless flow of words my work entails.’
      • ‘After many reprieves, the company, one of South Australia's biggest employers, may be consigned to history tonight.’
      • ‘Worse, the reprieve came too late for the Glazers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Despite these reprieves, the style of the show is somehow off, the music awkward, the direction formless.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Where it hasn't been achieved, those hospitals have had discussions with the government and there's been reprieves, ‘he says.’’
      • ‘Instead, the film buckles under the weight of its subject matter and resorts to a blur of fraught chases, narrow scrapes and miraculous reprieves.’


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’.