What Is Mea Culpa? – Usage, Meaning & Definition

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a bit of a pickle or having made a blunder, but you want to express your guilt for the mistake in a fancy way, mea culpa is the phrase you’re looking for. No, it’s not a fancy pasta dish; it’s a timeless phrase loaded with humility and acknowledgment.

But understanding what it actually means and how to use it properly will make a whole world of difference. So, I’ll explain the details you need to know right here.

Mea Culpa Meaning

What Is Mea Culpa Usage Meaning Definition

The definition of mea culpa translates literally from Latin as through my fault. It’s meant to be an interjection, an admission of wrongdoing or an expression of guilt over something you’ve done. It’s like saying, “Oops, my bad,” but with a touch more elegance and a sprinkle of ancient Roman flare. You’d use it in place of a simple “I”m sorry” because it’s considered more of an emphatic expression. 

Mia Culpa or Mea Culpa or Mia Copa

Mea Culpa Ngram
Mea Culpa Usage Trend.

So, how do you say it correctly? If you’re in the habit of saying mia culpa or mia copa, I’ll say you may have been led astray. The correct phrase to use is always mea culpa in response to being shown your mistake.

While mia might work if you’re speaking Italian and referring to my something, it’s not how the Romans owned up to their oopsie.

Origin and Etymology of Mea Culpa

This interjection comes from Latin roots, which is no surprise, and originated around the 1800s. It derived from the 13th-century French word couplable, which meant worthy of blame

What Is the Plural of Mea Culpa?

Strictly speaking, the noun mea culpa doesn’t have a traditional plural form because of the fact that it’s a statement of personal responsibility. But if you find yourself confessing numerous mistakes (don’t worry, everyone has those days), you might say, “My many mea culpas,” which sounds way better than admitting you’ve messed up…again.

Mea Culpa Pronunciation

In English, it’s pronounced as may-ah kuul-pah. But in proper Latin, it’s pronounced as meh-ah kuul-pah. Either way, saying it with a shrug and a sheepish grin will get your point across in most situations.

Synonyms for Mea Culpa

Don’t feel like using the fancy term? Try any one of these words that carry the same meaning.

  • My fault
  • My bad
  • Oopsie
  • My mistake
  • I’m to blame

How to Use Mea Culpa: Examples in a Sentence

What Is Mea Culpa Usage Meaning Definition 1
  • My biology presentation was full of errors—mea culpa. I should have thoroughly checked the facts before submitting it to the teacher.
  • Mea culpa for forgetting our wedding anniversary, honey. I’ve made a reservation at your favorite restaurant to make up for it.
  • The mix-up with the staff lunch orders was all my doing, mea culpa.
  • I must offer my mea culpa for being late for the sales meeting. Traffic was a nightmare this morning.
  • Yes, I ate the last slice of pizza without asking. Mea culpa, I should have saved it for you.
  • Mea culpa for the noise last night; I just moved in and shifted some furniture around and didn’t realize how late it was.
  • The typos in the report are my doing, mea culpa. I’ll fix them immediately and resubmit.
  • I take full responsibility for the oversight. It was my mea culpa, and I swear it won’t happen again.
  • Mea culpa, I thought I’d replied to your email, but it appears I only replied in my mind.

That’s a Wrap

This is just another classic case of English borrowing words and expressions from other languages. Adding some flare to your writing or conversations with Latin phrases such as this can be fun. Play around with other loanwords, and be sure to check out my guides on them!

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