What is a one-word synonym for "to accept blame"?

For example:

By signing the Treaty of Versailles, Germany accepted blame for World War I.

The synonym should be similar to "to accept responsibility," but should have the negative connotation associated with "blame."

Edit: It should also insinuate reluctance on behalf of the acceptor.

  • yield, give in, etc are distant synonyms.
    – Ram Pillai
    Aug 3, 2020 at 3:39
  • 1
    Why change what is perfectly fine? reluctantly accepted blame for.I just do not understand these types of questions....
    – Lambie
    Aug 4, 2020 at 17:16
  • @Lambie I agree that it is fine to say "reluctantly accepted blame for," but I need something else to say so I don't repeat it.
    – user392938
    Aug 4, 2020 at 17:20
  • 1
    Right, so: acknowledged their culpability. My problem is with your single-word thing.:)
    – Lambie
    Aug 4, 2020 at 17:25
  • @Lambie Ok. I also think it may have been too much to ask for one-word synonyms. Thanks for your help.
    – user392938
    Aug 4, 2020 at 18:56

4 Answers 4



1 : to tell or make known (something, such as something wrong or damaging to oneself) : ADMIT
    // he confessed his guilt

1 a : to disclose one's faults
specifically : to unburden one's sins or the state of one's conscience to God or to a priest …
    // confess to a crime

However, the example sentence has to be rephrased slightly:

By signing the Treaty of Versailles, Germany confessed their role in World War I.

Confessions can be entirely voluntary, reluctantly made, or even forced:

  • She reluctantly confessed.
  • It was a forced confession.

An informal expression that implies reluctance is fess up:

chiefly US, informal
: to admit that one has done something wrong : CONFESS
// At first he denied everything, but eventually he fessed up.
// He finally fessed up about his involvement.

thesaurus entry
1 to accept the truth or existence of (something) usually reluctantly
// he fessed up to breaking the antique vase only after his guilt was obvious

Note that this is likely too informal to be used in the example sentence in the question.

  • 1
    Doesn't "confess" imply that Germany was concealing the fact that it was to blame for World War I?
    – user392938
    Aug 3, 2020 at 3:34
  • 2
    @JohnB. Not at all. If you apologize to somebody, you are confessing that you are guilty of something, even if it's something that was never hidden. Saying I'm sorry I hurt you is a confession. Aug 3, 2020 at 3:36
  • You're right; I guess I need to word my question differently. I think I'm going to edit my question to show that Germany is reluctant to confess, but needs to do so. Nonetheless, thank you for your help.
    – user392938
    Aug 3, 2020 at 3:41
  • 2
    @JohnB. Note that confessions can also be forced. Aug 3, 2020 at 3:42
  • 1
    @JohnB. I added an informal phrase. (It also refers back to the first word.) But it likely wouldn't be used in your example. Aug 3, 2020 at 3:51

Shoulder perfectly fits here.

Shoulder (verb):
Shoulder the blame, burden, responsibility, cost, etc.
To accept that you are responsible for something bad or difficult

Example: Teachers cannot be expected to shoulder all the blame for poor exam results
[Cambridge English Dictionary]

In your example, you could replace 'accept' with 'shoulder':

By signing the Treaty of Versailles, Germany shouldered the blame for World War I.

It should also insinuate reluctance on behalf of the acceptor.

Acquiesce means to accept reluctantly but it would be strange to use acquiesce in this context because acquiesce does not often have the connotations of blame.

  • Thanks for "shoulder." I was also thinking about "acquiesce," but it doesn't work with blame.
    – user392938
    Aug 4, 2020 at 18:58

Incriminate or inculpate (oneself)

I don't believe there is a single word in English that can meet all of those conditions, but this is the closest thing I can think of. "Incriminate" doesn't necessarily work outside of a legal context, which is why I would generally prefer "inculpate", but I've never actually seen that word used before - it sounds sort of awkward and artificial, even though it isn't too hard to derive by analogy with "exculpate", a word that actually does see ordinary use.

Also, both of these are actions that could be done to someone else; to make it reflexive you'd have to add the prefix "self-", as in "self-incriminate", but this carries the unwanted connotation of accidentally revealing one's involvement in the matter, while your example is clearly looking for a word that indicates deliberate admission of guilt.

All in all, I think you're better off with "accept/admit + [noun]" (blame, responsibility, guilt, culpability, etc.) instead of a single word.

  • Thank you for your response. I agree that "confess" and "accept/admit + [noun]" are the best choices.
    – user392938
    Aug 3, 2020 at 4:44

Take the rap (for)

is a colloquial near equivalent, although it has the difference that it suggests that the person admitting guilt may not actually be the culprit, but be protecting someone else.

  • This is actually quite fitting because (form Germany's perspective) they weren't actually guilty.
    – user392938
    Aug 4, 2020 at 22:37
  • @JohnB. — I take your point (which had occurred to me), but for greater historical accuracy I would change "from Germany's perspective" to something like "from the perspective of certain political factions in Germany". However we're not here to discuss political history.
    – David
    Aug 6, 2020 at 8:11
  • I'm just beginning to learn about this stuff, so thank you for correcting me!
    – user392938
    Aug 6, 2020 at 13:32
  • @JohnB. — I didn't mean to say you were out of order or anything. Quite the contrary. Just that I was restraining my own impulse to start a discussion on the Weimar Republik. Nice to find someone on the list with a wider perspective.
    – David
    Aug 6, 2020 at 14:38

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