verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
- to diminish or nullify the significance of by explanation: He couldn't explain away his absence from home at the time the robbery was committed.
- to dispel (doubts, difficulties, etc.) by explanation: She explained away the child's fears.
Origin of explain
British Dictionary definitions for explain away (1 of 2)
British Dictionary definitions for explain away (2 of 2)
Word Origin for explain
Word Origin and History for explain away
early 15c., from Latin explanare "to make level, smooth out;" also "to explain, make clear" (see explanation).
Originally explane, spelling altered by influence of plain. Also see plane (v.2). In 17c., occasionally used more literally, of the unfolding of material things: Evelyn has buds that "explain into leaves" ["Sylva, or, A discourse of forest-trees, and the propagation of timber in His Majesties dominions," 1664]. Related: Explained; explaining; explains.
Idioms and Phrases with explain away
Dismiss or minimize the importance of something, especially something detrimental. For example, “His words were taken down, and though he tried to explain them away, he was sent to the Tower” (Thomas Macaulay, The History of England, 1855). [c. 1700]