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.

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.

Examples

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. [Stuff.co.nz]

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

Reference

1. Mea culpa in the OED (subscription required)

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