[ ri-preev ]
/ rɪˈpriv /
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verb (used with object), re·prieved, re·priev·ing.
to delay the impending punishment or sentence of (a condemned person).
to relieve temporarily from any evil.
a respite from impending punishment, as from execution of a sentence of death.
a warrant authorizing this.
any respite or temporary relief.
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Origin of reprieve

First recorded in 1300–50; perhaps conflation of Middle English repreven “to contradict,” variant of reproven “to rebuke,” apparently taken in literal sense “to prove again, test again,” and Middle English repried (past participle of reprien “to bring back”), from Old French reprit (past participle of reprendre “to take back”; see reprise,reprove,

synonym study for reprieve

3. See pardon.

historical usage of reprieve

The history of reprieve is complicated and confusing. The past participle repryed “returned to prison,” dating to 1513, comes from Anglo-French and Old French repris, the past participle of reprendre, from Latin reprehendere (also reprendere ) “to hold fast, hold back, blame, find fault with, investigate (a crime), pass judgment on, convict.” The usual modern sense “to delay the impending punishment or sentence of a convict” comes from the notion that being returned to prison is preferable to being executed.
The current spelling reprieve, recorded more than a century later than the original spelling repry, is possibly due to the influence of the Middle English verb repreve(n) “to rebuke, condemn.”
The noun, first appearing in the late 16th century, is a simple functional shift (a change in grammatical function).


re·priev·er, nounun·re·prieved, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use reprieve in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for reprieve

/ (rɪˈpriːv) /

verb (tr)
to postpone or remit the punishment of (a person, esp one condemned to death)
to give temporary relief to (a person or thing), esp from otherwise irrevocable harmthe government has reprieved the company with a huge loan
a postponement or remission of punishment, esp of a person condemned to death
a warrant granting a postponement
a temporary relief from pain or harm; respite
the act of reprieving or the state of being reprieved

Derived forms of reprieve

reprievable, adjectiverepriever, noun

Word Origin for reprieve

C16: from Old French repris (something) taken back, from reprendre to take back, from Latin reprehendere; perhaps also influenced by obsolete English repreve to reprove
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