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


  • (UK) enPR: ĭkskyo͞oz', IPA(key): /ɪkˈskjuːz/, /ɛksˈkjuːz/
  • (US) enPR: ĭkskyo͞oz', IPA(key): /ɪksˈkjuz/, /ɛksˈkjuz/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uːz


excuse (third-person singular simple present excuses, present participle excusing, simple past and past participle excused)

  1. (transitive) To forgive; to pardon.
    I excused him his transgressions.
    • Shakespeare
      I must excuse what cannot be amended.
    • Archbishop Sharp
      A man's persuasion that a thing is duty, will not excuse him from guilt in practising it, if really and indeed it be against God's law.
  2. (transitive) To allow to leave, or release from any obligation.
    May I be excused from the table?
    I excused myself from the proceedings to think over what I'd heard.
  3. (transitive) To provide an excuse for; to explain, with the aim of alleviating guilt or negative judgement.
    You know he shouldn't have done it, so don't try to excuse his behavior!
  4. To relieve of an imputation by apology or defense; to make apology for as not seriously evil; to ask pardon or indulgence for.
    • Bible, 2. Corinthians xii. 19
      Think ye that we excuse ourselves to you?


Derived termsEdit



excuse (countable and uncountable, plural excuses)

  1. (countable, uncountable) Explanation designed to avoid or alleviate guilt or negative judgment; a plea offered in extenuation of a fault.
    • 1604-11, Bible (King James Version), Luke: XIV:18
      And they all with one consent began to make excuse.
    Tell me why you were late – and I don't want to hear any excuses!
  2. (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.
  3. (with preceding negative adjective, especially sorry, poor or lame) An example of something that is substandard or of inferior quality.
    • 2008, Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap, London: Atlantic Books, page 131:
      What a fucking lame excuse for a man.
    That thing is a poor excuse for a gingerbread man. Hasn't anyone taught you how to bake?
    He's a sorry excuse of a doctor.

Usage notesEdit

  • We often say to make an excuse.


  • (explanation designed to avoid or alleviate guilt or negative judgment): pretext


Further readingEdit





  1. vocative masculine singular of excūsus




  1. Formal second-person singular (usted) imperative form of excusar.
  2. First-person singular (yo) present subjunctive form of excusar.
  3. Formal second-person singular (usted) present subjunctive form of excusar.
  4. Third-person singular (él, ella, also used with usted?) present subjunctive form of excusar.