Legal Dictionary


Legal Definition of acquit


  1. Declare not guilty (Often foll. by of)
  2. discharge (a duty or responsibility) (foll. by of)

Definition of acquit


    From Old English aquiten, Old French aquiter, French acquitter; (Latin ad) + Old French quiter ("to quit"), French quitter. See quit, and compare acquiet.

Alternative spellings

  • acquite (archaic)


  • enPR: ə-kwĭt, IPA: /əˈkwɪt/, SAMPA: /@"kwIt/
  • Rhymes: -ɪt


to acquit (third-person singular simple present acquits, present participle acquitting or acquiting, simple past and past participle acquitted or acquited)

  1. (followed by "of", formerly by "from") To set free, release or discharge from an obligation, duty, liability, burden, or from an accusation or charge, to find not guilty.

    The jury acquitted the prisoner of the charge.

    * 1775, Richard Sheridan, The duenna
    His poverty, can you acquit him of that?

    * 1837, Thomas Babington Macaulay, "Lord Bacon" in The Edinburgh Review, July 1837

    If he [Bacon] was convicted, it was because it was impossible to acquit him without offering the grossest outrage to justice and common sense.

  2. (obsolete, rare) To pay for; to atone for

    * 1594, William Shakespeare, The Rape of Lucrece, line 1071
    Till life to death acquit my forced offence.

  3. To discharge, as a claim or debt; to clear off; to pay off; to requite, to fulfill.

    * 1482 (earliest extant version), Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book II, 1200
    'Aquyte him wel, for goddes love,' quod he;

    * 1640, Thomas Carew, Tasso
    Midst foes (as champion of the faith) he ment / That palme or cypress should his painees acquite.

    * 1836, Edward Everett, Orations I-382
    I admit it to be not so much the duty as the privilege of an American citizen to acquit this obligation to the memory of his fathers with discretion and generosity.

    * 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Experience" in Essays: second series
    We see young men who owe us a new world, so readily and lavishly they promise, but they never acquit the debt; they die young and dodge the account: or if they live, they lose themselves in the crowd.

  4. (reflexive) To clear one's self.

    * 1593, William Shakespeare, King Henry VI, Part 2, Act III, III-ii
    Pray God he may acquit him of suspicion!

  5. (reflexive) To bear or conduct one's self; to perform one's part.

    The soldier acquitted himself well in battle.

    The orator acquitted himself very poorly.

    * 1766, Oliver Goldsmith, The vicar of Wakefield, xiv
    Though this was one of the first mercantile transactions of my life, yet I had no doubt about acquitting myself with reputation.

  6. (obsolete) To release, set free, rescue.

    * 1590, Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Canto I, I-vii-52
    Till I have acquit your captive Knight.


Derived terms

  • acquital, acquittal



  1. (archaic) Past participle of acquit, set free, rid of.

    * 1599, William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, I-iii
    I am glad I am so acquit of this tinder box.


  • acquit in Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913
  • The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1914


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     quorum
2.     scienter
3.     adjudication order
4.     AORO
5.     lex patriae
6.     Miranda warning
7.     appellant
8.     lex causae
9.     stare decisis
10.     lex situs