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excuse (v.)

mid-13c., "attempt to clear (someone) from blame, find excuses for," from Old French escuser (12c., Modern French excuser) "apologize, make excuses; pardon, exonerate," from Latin excusare "excuse, apologize, make an excuse for, plead as an excuse; release from a charge; decline, refuse, excuse the refusal of" (source also of Spanish excusar, Italian scusare), from ex "out, away" (see ex-) + causa "accusation, legal action" (see cause (n.)).

Sense of "forgive, pardon, accept another's plea of excuse" is from early 14c. Meaning "to obtain exemption or release from an obligation or duty; beg to be excused" is from mid-14c. in English, as is the sense "defend (someone or something) as right." Sense of "serve as justification for" is from 1530s. Related: Excused; excusing. Excuse me as a mild apology or statement of polite disagreement is from c. 1600.

excuse (n.)

late 14c., "pretext, justification," from Old French excuse, from excuser "apologize, make excuses" (see excuse (v.)). The sense of "that which serves as a reason for being excused" is recorded from mid-15c. As a noun, excusation is the earlier form (mid-14c.).

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Definitions of excuse from WordNet
1
excuse (v.)
accept an excuse for;
Please excuse my dirty hands
Synonyms: pardon
excuse (v.)
grant exemption or release to;
Please excuse me from this class
Synonyms: relieve / let off / exempt
excuse (v.)
serve as a reason or cause or justification of;
Your need to sleep late does not excuse your late arrival at work
Synonyms: explain
excuse (v.)
defend, explain, clear away, or make excuses for by reasoning;
excuse (v.)
ask for permission to be released from an engagement;
Synonyms: beg off
excuse (v.)
excuse, overlook, or make allowances for; be lenient with;
excuse someone's behavior
Synonyms: condone
2
excuse (n.)
a defense of some offensive behavior or some failure to keep a promise etc.;
he kept finding excuses to stay
excuse (n.)
a note explaining an absence;
he had to get his mother to write an excuse for him
excuse (n.)
a poor example;
a poor excuse for an automobile
Synonyms: apology
From wordnet.princeton.edu