[self-in-krim-uh-ney-shuh n, self-]


the act of incriminating oneself or exposing oneself to prosecution, especially by giving evidence or testimony.

Origin of self-incrimination

First recorded in 1920–25 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for self-incrimination

Historical Examples of self-incrimination

  • In flying from Jane he fled from the self-incrimination she planted in him.

    The Jack-Knife Man

    Ellis Parker Butler

  • A man could not refuse to answer on the grounds of self-incrimination.

  • Bbrarkk Jjoknyyegg Kekeke immediately took refuge in refusal to answer on grounds of self-incrimination.

    Lone Star Planet

    Henry Beam Piper and John Joseph McGuire

  • So was another principal witness, who, however, might decline to testify because of the danger of self-incrimination.

    Under Fire

    Charles King

  • It is what the lawyers would describe as the most conspicuous instance of self-incrimination on record.

    The Bible Unveiled

    M. M. Mangasarian

Word Origin and History for self-incrimination

also self incrimination, 1892, from self- + incrimination.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

self-incrimination in Culture


Being forced or coerced to testify against oneself. Self-incrimination is prohibited by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.


Under this principle, a person may choose (given certain restrictions) to “take the Fifth,” refusing to testify in court or before a legislative or executive committee.


Prohibiting self-incrimination not only helps guarantee due process of law, but also maintains one of the basic principles of American law by putting the burden of proof on the prosecution. (See also Miranda decision.)
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.