Definition of reprieve in English:

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Pronunciation: /rɪˈpriːv/


[with object]
1Cancel or postpone the punishment of (someone, especially someone condemned to death): under the new regime, prisoners under sentence of death were reprieved
More example sentences
  • The conspirators, a group of teachers and lawyers led by an educational theorist called Picornell, were condemned to death but reprieved on French insistence when peace was concluded.
  • An examination of the role of the Home Office in reprieving condemned prisoners can be found in R. Chadwick's Bureaucratic Mercy: The Home Office and the Treatment of Capital Cases in Victorian Britain.
  • Acquittal rates were high and infanticide was the only form of homicide for which women might be reprieved or pardoned.
grant a stay of execution to, cancel/postpone/commute/remit someone's punishment;
pardon, spare, acquit, grant an amnesty to, amnesty
informal let off, let off the hook
archaic respite
1.1Abandon or postpone plans to close or abolish (something): the threatened pits could be reprieved
More example sentences
  • But now the town hall is reprieving seven of the toilets and is to spend more than £10,400 keeping them open, following a wave of protest.
  • However, Hewat will not be able to make the case for reprieving the centre as it has made it clear they do not intend to be at this week's meeting.
save, rescue, grant a stay of execution to, give a respite to
informal take off the hit list


1A cancellation or postponement of a punishment: he accepted the death sentence and refused to appeal for a reprieve
More example sentences
  • Official reprieves and pardons were not uncommon, and some such acts of mercy were purposely announced only when the convicted stood on the scaffold and spectators had assembled.
  • The president can grant reprieves and pardons (except in the case of impeachment).
  • He or she could grant pardons and reprieves, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, make appointments and enter into treaties, subject to the approval of two-thirds of the senators present.
stay of execution, cancellation of punishment, postponement of punishment, remission, suspension of punishment, respite;
pardon, amnesty, acquittal;
North American Law  continuance
informal let-off
1.1A cancellation or postponement of an undesirable event: a mother who faced eviction has been given a reprieve
More example sentences
  • An increased supply of rental accommodation has resulted in a welcome reprieve from spiralling rents for tenants around the country, and particularly in Dublin.
  • Those who cannot afford to buy bonds, or who prefer to invest in productive endeavors, must pay in future taxes for the reprieve of not being taxed in the present.
  • This may be a welcome reprieve, but taxpayers and their advisors should still consider the proposed rules when evaluating investments.


Late 15th century (as the past participle repryed): from Anglo-Norman French repris, past participle of reprendre, from Latin re- 'back' + prehendere 'seize'. The insertion of -v- (16th century) remains unexplained. Sense development has undergone a reversal, from the early meaning 'send back to prison', via 'postpone a legal process', to the current sense 'rescue from impending punishment'.

  • Some words have not just changed their meaning, but reversed it. When reprieve came into English from Old French, based on Latin reprehendere ‘to seize, take back’, it meant ‘to take back to prison’. In the mid 16th century it referred to postponing or delaying a legal process, before developing into the current sense of cancelling an impending punishment.

Words that rhyme with reprieve

achieve, believe, breve, cleave, conceive, deceive, eve, greave, grieve, heave, interleave, interweave, khedive, leave, misconceive, naive, Neve, peeve, perceive, reave, receive, reive, relieve, retrieve, sheave, sleeve, steeve, Steve, Tananarive, Tel Aviv, thieve, underachieve, upheave, weave, we've, Yves

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: re|prieve

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