It's on the tip of my tongue.

I think there's a word (possibly ending in -ate) which means, loosely, "to make excuses".

Not in the sense found here of "decline", but meaning to try and justify something. It doesn't necessarily have to have the connotation that these excuses are bad ones, or that the action was in fact unjustified, but it could do.

For example, "I accused him of not delivering, but rather than apologise he X"

  • 2
    There's exculpate or, more likely, exonerate. You'd say he exonerated himself. Aug 8, 2017 at 18:08
  • 'he excused himself'? otherwise 'fudged it', 'wangled his way out', 'sidestepped'.. how formal is the word? Aug 8, 2017 at 18:09
  • " He excused the [thing] by [doing something] " Aug 8, 2017 at 19:21
  • Redirected blame? Passed the buck?
    – Kevin
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:36
  • 1
    @marcellothearcane Formal without a doubt. Rarely heard in day-to-day conversation
    – Some_Guy
    Aug 9, 2017 at 12:57

2 Answers 2


The following words could be used in certain situations:

  • mitigate, in the sense of attempting to reduce the perceived consequences of an action. I don't think this is a good answer, and it needs some additional words around it, but at least it ends in "ate".

  • temporize, where a partial answer is given with the objective of gaining time, e.g. ...instead of apologizing or explaining, he temporized. "We'll look up the background in our files. Then we should talk again..."

  • Accepting this as the answer because it was a valiant effort. In the end, the word I was searching for was "recriminate", but that has a narrower definition than what I gave in the original question, so it's not surprising that no one got it!
    – Some_Guy
    Oct 8, 2017 at 1:58
  • Thanks! To be honest, recriminate did not occur to me at all.
    – user205876
    Oct 9, 2017 at 17:30

I can't think of anything better (especially ending with -ate) than

exonerate verb

(of an official body) absolve (someone) from blame for a fault or wrongdoing.
‘an inquiry exonerated those involved’
‘they should exonerate these men from this crime’

Oxford Living Dictionaries

I think the best way to word your sample sentence would then be:

I accused him of not delivering, but rather than apologising he exonerated himself.

  • 1
    Exonerate means "prove" rather than "make an argument", so isn't really a fit here. But thanks for your contribution
    – Some_Guy
    Aug 9, 2017 at 12:12
  • Certainly "exonerate" has an implication that the person really isn't to blame rather than merely claims not to be. However, since we're using "exonerate himself" I think that it's pretty clear that that is not implied in this case. Not ending with -ate, but there is also rationalise. Aug 9, 2017 at 12:34
  • Another possibility, but perhaps with the same problem as "exonerate" is "vindicate". Aug 9, 2017 at 12:36
  • It has the same issue yes
    – Some_Guy
    Aug 10, 2017 at 10:12

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