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[ik-sten-yoo-eyt] /ɪkˈstɛn yuˌeɪt/
verb (used with object), extenuated, extenuating.
to represent (a fault, offense, etc.) as less serious:
to extenuate a crime.
to serve to make (a fault, offense, etc.) seem less serious.
to underestimate, underrate, or make light of:
Do not extenuate the difficulties we are in.
  1. to make thin, lean, or emaciated.
  2. to reduce the consistency or density of.
Origin of extenuate
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English (adj.) < Latin extenuātus, past participle of extenuāre, equivalent to ex- ex-1 + tenuāre to make thin or small; see -ate1
Related forms
extenuating, adjective
extenuative, adjective
extenuator, noun
nonextenuative, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for extenuate
  • The record evidence is sufficient to mitigate or extenuate the negative security implications stemming from the alcohol arrests.
  • The responsibility then shifts to the applicant to refute, extenuate or mitigate the government's case.
  • If the government meets its burden, it then falls to the applicant to refute, extenuate or mitigate the government's case.
  • Applicant must then refute, extenuate, or mitigate the government's case.
British Dictionary definitions for extenuate


verb (transitive)
to represent (an offence, a fault, etc) as being less serious than it appears, as by showing mitigating circumstances
to cause to be or appear less serious; mitigate
to underestimate or make light of
  1. to emaciate or weaken
  2. to dilute or thin out
Derived Forms
extenuating, adjective
extenuation, noun
extenuator, noun
extenuatory, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Latin extenuāre to make thin, from tenuis thin, frail
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
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Word Origin and History for extenuate

1520s, from Latin extenuatus, past participle of extenuare "lessen, make small, reduce, diminish," from ex- "out" (see ex-) + tenuare "make thin," from tenuis "thin" (see tenet). Related: Extenuated; extenuating. Extenuating circumstances attested from 1660s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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