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[ik-sten-yoo-ey-ting] /ɪkˈstɛn yuˌeɪ tɪŋ/
serving to make a fault, offense, etc., appear less serious:
The judge gave him a comparatively mild sentence due to extenuating circumstances.
Origin of extenuating
Related forms
extenuatingly, adverb
nonextenuating, adjective
nonextenuatingly, adverb
unextenuating, adjective
unextenuatingly, adverb


[ik-sten-yoo-eyt] /ɪkˈstɛn yuˌeɪt/
verb (used with object), extenuated, extenuating.
to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious:
to extenuate a crime.
to serve to make (a fault, offense, etc.) seem less serious.
to underestimate, underrate, or make light of:
Do not extenuate the difficulties we are in.
  1. to make thin, lean, or emaciated.
  2. to reduce the consistency or density of.
1375-1425; late Middle English (adj.) < Latin extenuātus, past participle of extenuāre, equivalent to ex- ex-1 + tenuāre to make thin or small; see -ate1
Related forms
extenuating, adjective
extenuative, adjective
extenuator, noun
nonextenuative, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for extenuating
Historical Examples
  • But really, you know, where are the extenuating circumstances?

    A Tangled Tale Lewis Carroll
  • "There may be some extenuating circumstances in your case—but I doubt it," he said.

    The Minister of Evil William Le Queux
  • There were extenuating circumstances about what Lafe Wynn had done.

    Owen Clancy's Happy Trail Burt L. Standish
  • Then he sat down: he had made no mention of extenuating circumstances.

    Fantmas Pierre Souvestre
  • The jury brought in a verdict of guilty with extenuating circumstances.

  • It is a time when the truth, all the truth, might be accepted as an extenuating circumstance.

    The Hill Horace Annesley Vachell
  • "Yes; but that is cause, not extenuating circumstance," Whittenden objected.

    The Brentons Anna Chapin Ray
  • The writer of the essay admits that there may be extenuating circumstances.

    The Bibliotaph Leon H. Vincent
  • I think it was the worst thing I did; yet there were extenuating circumstances.

    The Aspern Papers Henry James
  • But were there not some extenuating circumstances in my favor.

    The Sleuth of St. James's Square Melville Davisson Post
British Dictionary definitions for extenuating


verb (transitive)
to represent (an offence, a fault, etc) as being less serious than it appears, as by showing mitigating circumstances
to cause to be or appear less serious; mitigate
to underestimate or make light of
  1. to emaciate or weaken
  2. to dilute or thin out
Derived Forms
extenuating, adjective
extenuation, noun
extenuator, noun
extenuatory, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin extenuāre to make thin, from tenuis thin, frail
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for extenuating



1520s, from Latin extenuatus, past participle of extenuare "lessen, make small, reduce, diminish," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + tenuare "make thin," from tenuis "thin" (see tenet). Related: Extenuated; extenuating. Extenuating circumstances attested from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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