Mea culpa

  • Mea culpa is Latin for through my own fault. In modern English, it’s usually a noun referring to an acknowledgement of one’s own error or an acceptance of guilt. It’s often used to describe an elaborate apology, especially one that is apparently heartfelt.


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    When mea culpa entered English around the 13th century,1 it was an interjection meaning I accept guilt or it is my own fault. The interjection still appears occasionally, but the noun is much more common.


    As a noun

    Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock issued a mea culpa on Feb. 12 for making an infantile and racist comment on Twitter. [Wall Street Journal]

    He is working on a deeply personal book described as a kind of mea culpa to the nation, to make him seem more humane to voters. [Guardian]

    Media not given exclusive access will be allowed to view Woods’ public mea culpa via a television feed. [Australian]

    Limbaugh’s mea culpa — however insincere — is significant because it is proof that America may be both setting some basic standards for political discourse and rejecting the right-wing shrieks. [Florida Times-Union]


    As an interjection

    Mea culpa. Turns out the ANZ board doesn’t think as little of CEO Mike Smith as this columnist suggested. []

    So, here I am, on my knees, admitting that I might have been wrong. Mea culpa. [Scotsman]


    1. Mea culpa in the OED (subscription required)



    1. I like it as an interjection. It was once used as such in a British TV series I recently watched, and I thought, “Of course! It’s the polite ‘my bad’!” So, now I use it instead of ‘my bad’.

    2. Sean Harik says:

      So i was just trying to get educated on this term, but i was presented with a ridiculous attack on conservatives.

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