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[ik-sten-yoo-ey-ting] /ɪkˈstɛn yuˌeɪ tɪŋ/
serving to make a fault, offense, etc., appear less serious:
The judge gave him a comparatively mild sentence due to extenuating circumstances.
Origin of extenuating
Related forms
extenuatingly, adverb
nonextenuating, adjective
nonextenuatingly, adverb
unextenuating, adjective
unextenuatingly, adverb


[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.
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 extenuating
Historical Examples
  • No explanation or extenuating circumstances can be attempted in that deep confusion.

    Bluebell Mrs. George Croft Huddleston
  • But really, you know, where are the extenuating circumstances?

    A Tangled Tale Lewis Carroll
  • The writer of the essay admits that there may be extenuating circumstances.

    The Bibliotaph Leon H. Vincent
  • Then he sat down: he had made no mention of extenuating circumstances.

    Fantmas Pierre Souvestre
  • There were no extenuating circumstances in his case; in his nature there was no alloy, nor moderation, nor forbearance.

    Buccaneers and Pirates of Our Coasts Frank Richard Stockton
  • The jury brought in a verdict of guilty with extenuating circumstances.

  • I did not think of all these extenuating circumstances then, however, and so I said unbelieving things about her tomb.

  • They accorded in both her case and that of Lucien extenuating circumstances.

  • Perhaps she was aware of extenuating circumstances that we do not know of.

    Lausanne Francis Henry Gribble
  • Yes, and I thought there must be some extenuating circumstances.

    Fighting the Sea Edward A. Rand
British Dictionary definitions for extenuating


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 extenuating



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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