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 formsex·ten·u·at·ing·ly, adverbnon·ex·ten·u·at·ing, adjectivenon·ex·ten·u·at·ing·ly, adverbun·ex·ten·u·at·ing, adjectiveun·ex·ten·u·at·ing·ly, adverb



verb (used with object), ex·ten·u·at·ed, ex·ten·u·at·ing.

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.

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. 2019

Related Words for extenuating

lessening, reducing, moderating, mitigating

Examples from the Web for extenuating

Historical Examples of extenuating

  • 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.

  • Then he sat down: he had made no mention of extenuating circumstances.


    Pierre Souvestre

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

British Dictionary definitions for extenuating


verb (tr)

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 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 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