• IPA: /ɪkˈstɛnjueɪt/

extenuate (extenuates, present participle extenuating; past and past participle extenuated)

  1. (transitive) To lessen; to palliate; to lessen or weaken the force of; to diminish the conception of, as crime, guilt, faults, ills, accusations, etc.
    • 1599, William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4 Scene 1
      CLAUDIO. I know what you would say: if I have known her,
      You'll say she did embrace me as a husband,
      And so extenuate the 'forehand sin: No, Leonato,
      I never tempted her with word too large;
      But, as a brother to his sister, show'd
      Bashful sincerity and comely love.
    • 1833, Isaac Taylor, Saturday Evening
      Let us then contemplate this companion of our existence;—and let us extenuate, conceal, adorn the unpleasing reality.
  2. (archaic, transitive) To make thin or slender; to draw out so as to lessen the thickness.
    • 1681, Nehemiah Grew, Musaeum Regalis Societatis
      His body behind the head becomes broad, from whence it is again extenuated all the way to the tail.
    • 1849, Charlotte Brontë, Shirley
      To this extenuated spectre, perhaps, a crumb is not thrown once a year, but when ahungered and athirst to famine—when all humanity has forgotten the dying tenant of a decaying house—Divine Mercy remembers the mourner […]
  3. (archaic, intransitive) To become thinner.
  4. (obsolete) To lower or degrade; to detract from.
    • 1667, John Milton, “Book X”, in Paradise Lost. A Poem Written in Ten Books, London: Printed [by Samuel Simmons], and are to be sold by Peter Parker […] [a]nd by Robert Boulter […] [a]nd Matthias Walker, […], OCLC 228722708 ↗; republished as Paradise Lost in Ten Books: The Text Exactly Reproduced from the First Edition of 1667: […], London: Basil Montagu Pickering […], 1873, OCLC 230729554 ↗:
      Who can extenuate thee?
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