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See more synonyms for extenuate on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), ex·ten·u·at·ed, ex·ten·u·at·ing.
  1. to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious: to extenuate a crime.
  2. to serve to make (a fault, offense, etc.) seem less serious.
  3. to underestimate, underrate, or make light of: Do not extenuate the difficulties we are in.
  4. Archaic.
    1. to make thin, lean, or emaciated.
    2. to reduce the consistency or density of.
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Origin of extenuate

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 formsex·ten·u·at·ing, adjectiveex·ten·u·a·tive, adjectiveex·ten·u·a·tor, nounnon·ex·ten·u·a·tive, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for extenuate

palliate, minimize, reduce, soften, excuse, qualify, decrease, diminish, downplay, moderate, justify

Examples from the Web for extenuate

Historical Examples of extenuate

  • Whatever tends to extenuate the guilt of other sins, is an aggravation of this.

    Female Scripture Biographies, Vol. I

    Francis Augustus Cox

  • In such circumstances I cannot seek to extenuate any of my faults or follies.

  • Above disguise, above art, above attempting to extenuate a failing.

    Clarissa, Volume 3 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • They attempted to extenuate their crimes by the hardships they had suffered, but in vain.

  • There was a vindictiveness in these crimes which no plea can extenuate.

British Dictionary definitions for extenuate


verb (tr)
  1. to represent (an offence, a fault, etc) as being less serious than it appears, as by showing mitigating circumstances
  2. to cause to be or appear less serious; mitigate
  3. to underestimate or make light of
  4. archaic
    1. to emaciate or weaken
    2. to dilute or thin out
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Derived Formsextenuating, adjectiveextenuation, nounextenuator, nounextenuatory, adjective

Word Origin for extenuate

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

Word Origin and History for extenuate


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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper