from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • transitive verb To make allowance for; overlook or forgive.
  • transitive verb To grant pardon to; forgive.
  • transitive verb To apologize for (oneself) for an act that could cause offense.
  • transitive verb To explain (a fault or offense) in the hope of being forgiven or understood; try to justify: synonym: forgive.
  • transitive verb To serve as justification for.
  • transitive verb To free, as from an obligation or duty; exempt.
  • transitive verb To give permission to leave; release.
  • noun An explanation offered to justify or obtain forgiveness.
  • noun A reason or grounds for excusing.
  • noun The act of excusing.
  • noun A note explaining an absence.
  • noun Informal An inferior example.
  • idiom (Excuse me) Used to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for an action that could cause offense.
  • idiom (Excuse me) Used to request that a statement be repeated.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To offer an excuse or apology for: often reflexively.
  • To furnish or serve as an excuse or apology for; serve as justification for; justify.
  • To pardon, as a fault; forgive entirely, or overlook as venial or not blameworthy.
  • To free or release from an obligation or duty; release by favor.
  • To remit; refrain from exacting: as, to excuse a fine.
  • To regard, permit, or receive with indulgence.
  • To shield from blame.
  • Synonyms To extenuate.
  • To exempt, release, let off.
  • noun The act of excusing or apologizing, exculpating or justifying.
  • noun A plea offered or reason given in extenuation of a fault or a failure in duty; an apology; as, the debtor makes excuses for delay of payment.
  • noun That which serves as a reason or ground for excusing; an extenuating or justifying fact or argument, or what is adduced as such by way of apology or to secure pardon.
  • noun Synonyms Apology, Excuse, Plea. See apology.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The act of excusing, apologizing, exculpating, pardoning, releasing, and the like; acquittal; release; absolution; justification; extenuation.
  • noun That which is offered as a reason for being excused; a plea offered in extenuation of a fault or irregular deportment; apology
  • noun That which excuses; that which extenuates or justifies a fault.
  • transitive verb To free from accusation, or the imputation of fault or blame; to clear from guilt; to release from a charge; to justify by extenuating a fault; to exculpate; to absolve; to acquit.
  • transitive verb To pardon, as a fault; to forgive entirely, or to admit to be little censurable, and to overlook.
  • transitive verb To regard with indulgence; to view leniently or to overlook; to pardon.
  • transitive verb To free from an impending obligation or duty; hence, to disengage; to dispense with; to release by favor; also, to remit by favor; not to exact.
  • transitive verb To relieve of an imputation by apology or defense; to make apology for as not seriously evil; to ask pardon or indulgence for.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive To forgive; to pardon.
  • verb transitive To allow to leave.
  • verb transitive To provide an excuse for; to explain, with the aim of alleviating guilt or negative judgement.
  • noun An explanation designed to avoid or alleviate guilt or negative judgment.
  • noun law A defense to a criminal or civil charge wherein the accused party admits to doing acts for which legal consequences would normally be appropriate, but asserts that special circumstances relieve that party of culpability for having done those acts.
  • noun An example.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb grant exemption or release to
  • noun a poor example
  • verb excuse, overlook, or make allowances for; be lenient with
  • noun a note explaining an absence
  • verb accept an excuse for
  • verb defend, explain, clear away, or make excuses for by reasoning
  • noun a defense of some offensive behavior or some failure to keep a promise etc.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English excusen, from Old French excuser, from Latin excūsāre : ex-, ex- + causa, accusation; see cause.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English excusen, from Old French escuser, from Latin excūsō ("to excuse, allege in excuse, literally, free from a charge"), from ex ("out") + causa ("a charge"); see cause and accuse.


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  • "Well, excuuuuuse me! So I forgot my excuse!" said Tom, accusingly.

    November 22, 2007

  • An excuse is the English people's word for the falsehood they tell when they wish to avoid a social obligation. They do not tell the truth on these occasions, fearing, and with some reason, that the truth would give unnecessary offence. -- ''Yashima, or, The Gorgeous West'' by R T Sherwood, 1931.

    December 24, 2008

  • An excuse you might give your boss for being late to work?

    "I set half the clocks in my house ahead an hour and the other half back an hour Saturday and spent 18 hours in some kind of space-time continuum loop, reliving Sunday (right up until the explosion). I was able to exit the loop only by reversing the polarity of the power source, exactly e*log(pi), of the clocks in the house while simultaneously rapping my dog on the snout with a rolled up Times. Accordingly, I will be in late, or early."

    May 14, 2010