Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
February 8th, 2016
Episode 443 of 681 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for February 8, 2016 is: exonerate \ig-ZAH-nuh-rayt\ verb 1 : to relieve of a responsibility, obligation, or hardship 2 : to clear from accusation or blame Examples: Dana was exonerated for the crime of taking the money after it was found that her fingerprints did not match those on the cashbox. "… a 2015 measure approved by the Legislature will provide more opportunities for convicted people to request DNA testing of evidence that mightexoneratethem." — The Daily Herald (Everett, Washington), 23 Dec. 2015 Did you know? We won't blame you if you don't know the origins of today's word. Exonerate derives via Middle English from the past participle of the Latin verb exonerare, meaning "to unburden," formed by combining the prefix ex- with onus, meaning "load" or "burden" (onus itself lives on with that meaning in English). In its earliest uses, dating from the 16th century, exonerate was used in the context of physical burdens—a ship, for example, could be exonerated of its cargo when it was unloaded. Later it was used in reference to any kind of burden, until a more specific sense developed, meaning "to relieve (someone) of blame."