The Meaning of Reprieve: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of reprieve? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word reprieve, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word reprieve mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Dictionary, the word reprieve (pronounced rɪˈpriːv) can be used as either a noun or a verb. As a transitive verb, this word is used to mean to relieve something temporarily, or to delay some impending punishment.  As a noun, the word reprieve is used to refer to said respite, or any such respite or temporary relief. A brief reprieve can save a person last-minute from irrevocable harm. 

Many different languages also use words that mean reprieve. You may notice that some of these words look similar to one another. This is probably due to the fact that they share a common origin. Oftentimes, words that have a shared root language such as Latin or Greek will look, sound, and mean similar things. These are called cognates. This list of translations for the word reprieve is provided by Word Sense

  • French: répit‎ (masc.)
  • Italian: tregua‎ (fem.)
  • Russian: переды́шка‎ (fem.), отсро́чка‎ (fem.)
  • Maori: tānga manawa‎
  • Swedish: andrum‎ (neut.)
  • Afrikaans: verposing‎
  • Scottish Gaelic: faochadh‎ (masc.)
  • Serbo-Croatian: predah‎
  • Portuguese: trégua‎ (fem.)
  • German: Aufschub‎ (masc.), Frist‎ (fem.), Atempause‎ (fem.), Bedenkzeit‎ (fem.)
  • Tagalog: hingawas‎
  • Chinese – Mandarin: 暂缓‎ (zànhuǎn)
  • Catalan: respir‎ (masc.)
  • Arabic: متنفس‎ (masc.)
  • Finnish: lepotauko‎
  • Dutch: verademing

What is the origin of the word reprieve?

According to Etymonline, the word reprieve originally meant to take back to prison, and was written as reprive. This was common around the 1570s. It is possible, maybe by influence of the word reprove, that this is an alteration of the Middle English repryan, a late 15th century word meaning to remand or detain. This likely has its roots in the Old French repris, which is the past participle of reprendre, a French verb meaning to take back. This word has its roots in the Latin reprehendere. This is also where we get the related words reprise and reprisal. This term was used to refer to the suspension of an execution in the 1590s, and has since evolved as being sent back to prison was a good thing, since the person would not be executed. The word began to be spelled reprieve in the 1640s, perhaps having relations to the word achieve and other words like this. Related words include received and reprieving. 

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word reprieve?

There are many different words that someone can use in place of the word reprieve. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful to know if you are trying to avoid repeating yourself as well as if you are looking to expand your English language vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word reprieve is provided by Thesaurus

  • lifesaver
  • indulgence
  • kindness
  • stay
  • hiatus
  • commute
  • vindication
  • conciliation
  • rest
  • five
  • lifeboat
  • justification
  • absolution
  • deferment
  • cancellation
  • commutation
  • leisure
  • exculpation
  • forgiveness
  • lull
  • protraction
  • relaxation
  • breath
  • clemency
  • ten
  • acquittal
  • condonation
  • coffee break
  • postponement
  • break
  • interregnum
  • relief
  • anchor
  • freeing
  • deliverance
  • time out
  • remit
  • discharge
  • amnesty
  • moratorium
  • spring
  • truce
  • interval
  • excuse
  • adjournment
  • palliation
  • release
  • abeyance
  • indemnification
  • delay
  • let-up
  • respite
  • exoneration
  • suspension
  • indemnity
  • ease
  • mercy
  • breather
  • halt
  • pardon
  • intermission
  • time
  • interruption
  • remission
  • alleviation
  • immunity
  • recess
  • cessation
  • mitigation
  • abatement
  • layoff
  • breathing space
  • clearance
  • allowance
  • downtime
  • letup
  • grace
  • forbearance
  • deadlock
  • stop

There are also many different words that have the opposite meaning of the word reprieve. These are known as antonyms, and are also useful to know if you are trying to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word reprieve is also provided by Thesaurus

  • prolongation
  • endurance
  • sustaining
  • assiduity
  • addition
  • preserving
  • line
  • sustenance
  • perpetuation
  • production
  • persisting
  • continuation
  • furtherance
  • perpetuating
  • propagation
  • continuing
  • going on
  • tenacity
  • succession
  • maintenance
  • prolonging
  • producing
  • maintaining
  • increasing
  • duration
  • supplement
  • enduring
  • extension
  • increase
  • sequel
  • continuity
  • continuance
  • protracting
  • postscript
  • preservation
  • augmenting
  • protraction

How can the word reprieve be used in a sentence?

The word reprieve can be used in many different settings and circumstances as either a noun or a verb. In this first example, Hank and his daughter Kate are on a long hike up a mountain. 

Kate: Dad, my feet hurt. Can we stop again?

Hank: Sure. Those shoes a little tight on you?

Kate: I think so. 

Hank: How about this? I can carry you on my back for a little, give your feet some reprieve from the mountain. And when we get back down the mountain, we will go and get you a pair of hiking boots that actually fit.

Kate: Yay!

Here, Hank uses the term reprieve to refer to the relief Kate’s feet will get as he carries her up the mountain. In this next example, Kate and her friends are hiding in the school bathroom to avoid math class. The Vice Principal walks in.

Vice Principal: What are you girls doing in here?

Kate: Uh, going to the bathroom?

Vice Principal: A likely story, when none of you are in a stall. Looks to me like you all thought you could take a little reprieve from math class and no one would notice. Guess what? I noticed.

Overall, the word reprieve can be used as a noun or a verb to either refer to one person briefly relieving another from evil or delaying some punishment. As a noun, it is used to refer to said respite, or any other form of temporary relief. This is a very versatile word that can be used in many different ways in the English language.