If you’re really into shows like Law and Order that follow courts and lawyers, then you’ve probably heard the word alibi. It’s an incredibly important concept when defending yourself in court.
If the word alibi has never shown up on your vocab word lists, it can be confusing when it comes up in your life (or the TV show that you’re binging at the moment).
Today’s word of the day is alibi. By the end of this short guide, you’ll have a solid understanding of the word alibi, its definitions, its etymology, and how to use it. Let’s get started.
What Is the Meaning of Alibi?
The word alibi (pronounced ˈæl əˌbaɪ or ˈælɪbaɪ or ˈælɪˌbaɪ) has a fairly simple definition. And, s you’ll see, it is a very important concept in the judicial system. Here’s the definition of the word alibi:
- A piece of evidence that a person did not commit a crime, particularly evidence that a person was at another place at the time the crime took place
- An excuse for why something happened
The first definition is by far the more common one. It’s used all the time in court when somebody defending themselves against an accusation of crime. If a person can prove that they were at another location when the crime was committed, they can make a great case that they did not commit the crime.
Evidence is key to providing a good alibi. That evidence could be anything from witnesses who can verify where you were to video or film that places a person away from the crime scene. If the alibi is good enough and not proven to be a false alibi, it could go a long way to exonerate the accused.
The second definition has a mostly informal use. Essentially, this definition just means an excuse. A child can put forth an alibi as to why he didn’t do his chores, or a worker can give an alibi as to why he didn’t meet his deadlines. In this sense, an alibi is a general excuse.
The noun plural of alibi is simply alibi. You do not add an “s” to the end of the word to make it plural.
How Does an Alibi Work in Court?
The alibi is a great piece of evidence regarding criminal law, but there are some pros and cons to utilizing it.
One of the main benefits of using an alibi defense is that the accused person does not have to give up their constitutional right to remain silent, also known as the right against self-incrimination. The defendant does not have to take the witness stand to provide an alibi.
Because the evidence can be given as an alibi witness or even a video, the witness never has to open their mouths. This means that the defense can avoid cross-examination and the risk that the prosecutor could attack the defendant’s credibility.
However, one of the potential downsides of this form of defense is that most states require that the defense has to disclose, before the trial, if they are going to rely on an alibi defense. This gives the prosecutor ample time to gather evidence to refute the alibi.
Because of this, you typically have to have a cast-iron, perfect alibi to convince a judge or jury of its validity and use it to get exculpation.
Where Did the Word Alibi Come From?
To help clarify the definition of alibi, let’s look at the history of how it came to be — AKA its etymology.
Like so many words in English, the word alibi comes from Latin. But alibi is unlike other English words in that it hasn’t been changed at all from its Latin form. The spelling stayed the same, but the definition shifted slightly.
The Latin alibi is actually an adverb that means elsewhere. The word alibi is actually the locative case of another Latin word alius, which means another or different. So, alibi basically means another place.
The word did not enter the English language until the 1700s. Once it did, alibi was only used in the legal sense to refer to a piece of evidence showing the defendant was somewhere else. But by the 1900s, it had gained an informal use and began to be used to simply mean “excuse.”
But this Latin word did not transition to other Latin-based languages. In Spanish, for example, the word for alibi is coartada.
What Are Some Examples of Alibi in a Sentence?
Seeing a word in context can help clarify its definition and how you can use it in your own life. Here are some example sentences that use the word alibi.
Without a strong alibi, I don’t know if we can convince the jury that you’re innocent.
I have a great way to take down the defense’s alibi that they will never see coming.
The Czech gang member has a rock-solid alibi, so he couldn’t have done it, but he could still be an accomplice.
All he could articulate was that he was at a random house at a party. It’s a pretty weak alibi if you ask me.
His alibi is that he was an American English teacher overseas at the time, so it’s pretty much air-tight.
What Are the Synonyms of the Word Alibi?
Here are some synonyms for the word alibi that you might find in a thesaurus.
What Are its Antonyms?
These are antonyms for the word alibi:
The Word Alibi
Now you know everything you need to know about the word alibi, its definition, its history, and how to use it. Use it confidently in your writing and your conversation. And if you need a refresher on this word, come back to this article for the information you need.
ALIBI | Cambridge English Dictionary
ALIBI | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico