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While they appear to have the same meaning, is there an actual difference between the two words?

Are there situations where one is preferred over the other?

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  • Which one do you tend to use more often, and why?
    – tchrist
    Jun 12, 2021 at 19:34
  • I often use incriminate, but the reason behind this is more due to personal preference. I often find myself using the opposite of inculpate, i.e., exculpate, hence wondering whether there are actual uses for inculpate over incriminate.
    – Goaler444
    Jun 12, 2021 at 19:38

1 Answer 1

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Inculpate, to all intents and purposes, became rare (save in formal legal writing) around the late 19th century when incriminate took over from it. Rhetorically, inculpate is usually used in the context of a contrast to exculpate. See Google Ngrams for inculpate, incriminate

The OED gives

Inculpate: 1. transitive. To bring a charge against; to accuse; to blame, find fault with.

1799 S. Turner Hist. Anglo-Saxons I. iii. iii. 173 Gildas inculpates him for having destroyed his uncle.

in which inculpate can be used, as shown, as a close synonym for blame, accuse or find fault with [someone]:

To incriminate lacks this meaning.

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    It sounds to me like, generally, you incriminate yourself when you do something criminal, and then someone inculpates you when they charge you with culpability for it.
    – Anonym
    Jun 12, 2021 at 22:10
  • Incriminate yourself, indeed, but also: those evidences incriminate you/him, etc.,@Anonym. Jun 13, 2021 at 5:18

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