Propitiate vs expiate

Photo of author


Propitiate and expiate are words that are found confusing by many people. We will examine the definitions of propitiate and expiate, where these words came from and some examples of their use in sentences.

Propitiate means to appease or win the favor of a person or a spirit by doing something to please them, to gain or regain the good will of a person, spirit or god through doing something pleasing, to pacify a god or a person. The word propitiate is derived from the Latin word propitiare, meaning to make favorable or gracious. Propitiate is a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are propitiates, propitiated, propitiating, propitiable, propitiation, propitiatory, propitiatory. 

Expiate means to make reparations for a sin or wrongdoing, to pay the penalty for something you are guilty of doing. The word expiate is derived from the Latin word expiare, which means to atone for. Expiate is also a transitive verb, related words expiates, expiated, expiating, expiation, expiator. 


The sacrifice is believed to have been carried out to propitiate their presiding deity. (The Deccan Chronicle)

A panchayat member and her two sons have been accused of kidnapping and killing an 18-month-old child by pouring hot water on him “to propitiate gods” in northeast Bihar’s Araria district. (The Hindustan Times)

“I believe there are multitudes of people,” the article goes, “accustomed to receive injunctions of new year resolutions, who will sin all the month of December, with a serious determination of beginning the new year with new resolutions and new behavior, and with the full belief that they shall thus expiate and wipe away all their former faults.” (Reader’s Digest)

The hope that somehow the World Series would expiate the pain of the present remains moot. (The Chicago Tribune)