Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To lessen or attempt to lessen the magnitude or seriousness of, especially by providing partial excuses. See Synonyms at palliate.
  • transitive v. Archaic To make thin or emaciated.
  • transitive v. Archaic To reduce the strength of.
  • transitive v. Obsolete To belittle; disparage.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To make thin or slender; to draw out so as to lessen the thickness.
  • v. To lessen; to palliate; to lessen or weaken the force of; to diminish the conception of, as crime, guilt, faults, ills, accusations, etc.; -- opposed to aggravate.
  • v. To lower or degrade; to detract from.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To make thin or slender; to draw out so as to lessen the thickness.
  • transitive v. To lessen; to palliate; to lessen or weaken the force of; to diminish the conception of, as crime, guilt, faults, ills, accusations, etc.; -- opposed to aggravate.
  • transitive v. To lower or degrade; to detract from.
  • intransitive v. To become thinner; to make excuses; to advance palliating considerations.
  • adj. Thin; slender.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To make thin, lean, slender, or rare; reduce in thickness or density; draw out; attenuate.
  • To make smaller in degree or appearance; make less blamable in fact or in estimation; lower in importance or degree, as a fault or crime; mitigate; palliate: opposed to aggravate.
  • To detract from, as a person or thing; lessen in honor, estimation, or importance.
  • Synonyms See palliate.
  • To become thin or thinner or more slender; be drawn out or attenuated.
  • Thin; slender.

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

  • v. lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of

Etymologies

Latin extenuāre, extenuāt- : ex-, ex- + tenuāre, to make thin (from tenuis, thin; see ten- in Indo-European roots).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Latin extenuatus, past participle of extenuare ("to make thin, loosen, weaken") from ex ("out") + tenuare ("to make thin"), from tenuis ("thin"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • This I neither "extenuate" nor "set down in malice," but merely record the fact.

    The Journal of Negro History, Volume 1, January 1916

  • I would not "set down aught in malice," I would rather "extenuate," yet am I bound in truth to say that

    Autobiography of a female slave,

  • It is true the people at the Cascades had suffered much, and that their wives and children had been murdered before their eyes, but to wreak vengeance on Spencer's unoffending family, who had walked into their settlement under the protection of a friendly alliance, was an unparalleled outrage which nothing can justify or extenuate.

    She Makes Her Mouth Small & Round & Other Stories

  • There was nothing she would not have done to extenuate her error, and to obviate its ill effect upon

    Camilla

  • Mr. Archer, whose criticism of this play is extraordinarily brilliant, does his best to extenuate the stiffness of it.

    Henrik Ibsen

  • In the mean time, provision was made of many Flambeaux and Torches, not only for the Service of their Light, but to help extenuate those poysonous Particles there gather'd by means of the want of Air.

    The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen

  • The false prophets are those who do not present the word of God in its purity, but they dilute and extenuate it with a thousand human words that come from out of their heart.

    Archive 2008-03-01

  • I can explain (not extenuate) my mistake only by a misprint in Al – Siyúti (p. 554).

    The Book of The Thousand Nights And A Night

  • Democrat control on Capitol Hill is already starting to create rumblings after all, and a bitter struggle between gender and race could extenuate those rumblings further and cause more widespread damage than many think.

    Is there scope for a "through the middle" candidate?

  • I mean these levees are like putting your thumb over a garden hose and they just extenuate the pressure.

    CNN Transcript Jun 19, 2008

Comments

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  • In addition, extenuate (adjective) means 1. impoverished; 2. thinned out.

    February 13, 2012