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Word Wisdom: Vindicate

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser.
Word Wisdom

The other day I accused Patti of putting something away but not in the correct place. I couldn’t find it at all. So, it must have been her. Then, it came to me that I had put it in a different place that would be easier to find, so I thought. She was vindicated. Now, I guess I must pay a penalty for a false accusation.

Vindicate comes from a form of the Latin verb vindicare, meaning “to set free, avenge, or lay claim to.” Vindicare is derived from the Latin noun vindex, meaning a claimant or avenger. From this Latin root come the words avenge, revenge, vengeance, vendetta, and vindictive.

Vindicate usually means to free from allegation or blame. It may refer to things as well as persons that have been subjected to critical attack or imputation of guilt, weakness, or folly. And it implies a clearing affected by proving the unfairness of such criticism or blame. As I discovered, but not necessarily quick to admit, it was my fault the thing was missing, and not Patti’s blunder.

Vindicate can also mean to provide justification or defence for someone. Psalm 26 says, “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.” (Psalm 26:1) Since the writer has believed without hesitation and walked in honesty, God should defend him and support him against any opposition.

The prophet wrote, “He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.” (Isaiah 50:8) The Lord will defend His people, to protect them from attack or encroachment. God will avenge His own.

In the 16th century vindicate was used in the sense of freeing or delivering from a place or a peril. A damsel in distress would be vindicated by the valiant knight. She would be freed from her prison or captor. To use the word vindicate as “to obtain freedom” has become obsolete in English. Now the word implies some sort of justice being provided with the freedom given or received.

When someone is vindicated from a charge, they are absolved, exonerated, acquitted, or exculpated. Exculpate implies a clearing from blame or fault, often in small matters. She is exculpating herself from the charge of over-enthusiasm. Acquit entails a formal decision for freedom with respect to a charge. The jury voted to acquit the defendant. Exonerate involves a complete clearance from an accusation or charge and from any suspicion of blame or guilt. The politician was exonerated by the investigation. Absolve implies a release from an obligation that binds the conscience or release from the consequences of disobeying the law or committing a sin. The priest absolved the penitent person. 

Vindicate can also mean to uphold a true, right, or just cause. It is like maintain, assert, defend, or justify, with slight variations depending on context. Maintain stresses firmness of conviction. He steadfastly maintained his innocence despite overwhelming evidence. A determination to make others accept one’s claim is to assert. She asserted her rights. Defend implies rightness in the face of attack or criticism. The member of parliament defended her voting record in the face of criticism. Justify entails showing to be right by appeal to a standard or to a precedent. The abuse was used to justify police intervention. Whereas vindicate indicates successfully upholding the right. His success vindicated our faith in him.

Patti was vindicated from my accusations since she did not misplace the object I was seeking, as I seemed to have been the last to use it. However, I feel I should be vindicated because of the rusting steel trap of my mind, deteriorating due to no fault of my own. 

John would like to know if anyone has a sincere interest in a relevant word that he could possibly research for an upcoming column. If so, please send your requests to . Words will be selected according to relevance and research criteria. We cannot confirm that all words will be used.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 


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