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extenuating circumstances

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A situation or condition that provides an excuse for an action, as in Although Nancy missed three crucial rehearsals, there were extenuating circumstances, so she was not dismissed. This expression was originally legal terminology, denoting circumstances that partly excuse a crime and therefore call for less punishment or damages. [c. 1600]

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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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