Advanced and Proficiency Vocabulary for Exams(e.g.GRE, Banks, Civil Services, SAT / LSAT). For IELTS/TOEFL, and everyday spoken vocabulary, go to our Spoken Vocabulary Database.
To ‘extenuate’ is to lessen the importance or seriousness of something, such as a mistake or offence. In other words, it makes something forgivable. This is typically achieved by putting forward a consideration to mitigate or excuse your wrongdoing. For that reason, this formal term is often used with the word 'circumstances'.
The defendant's lawyer tried to extenuate the crimes her client had committed, but the judge did not believe a word of it.
There were extenuating circumstances for my lateness. The bus broke down and a replacement did not arrive for another 45 minutes.
The employee claimed that the mistake wasn’t his fault, but couldn’t offer anything as an extenuation.