An excuse is an explanation for something that went wrong. When we give an excuse, we're trying to get someone to cut us some slack.

When you finish dinner and ask, "May I be excused?" you've used one of many meanings of this word. It’s generally a reason for behavior: A note from your parents saying you have a doctor’s appointment can excuse you from school for the day. If your dog is sick, he has an excuse for barfing in the house. But be careful — making excuses can get awfully close to whining.

Definitions of excuse
  1. noun
    a defense of some offensive behavior or some failure to keep a promise etc.
    “he kept finding excuses to stay”
    synonyms: alibi, exculpation, self-justification
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    extenuation, mitigation
    a partial excuse to mitigate censure; an attempt to represent an offense as less serious than it appears by showing mitigating circumstances
    type of:
    defence, defense, vindication
    the justification for some act or belief
  2. verb
    accept an excuse for
    “Please excuse my dirty hands”
    synonyms: pardon
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    type of:
    stop blaming or grant forgiveness
  3. verb
    excuse, overlook, or make allowances for; be lenient with
    excuse someone's behavior”
    synonyms: condone
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    type of:
    stop blaming or grant forgiveness
  4. verb
    defend, explain, clear away, or make excuses for by reasoning
    synonyms: apologise, apologize, justify, rationalise, rationalize
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    color, colour, gloss
    give a deceptive explanation or excuse for
    offer as an excuse or plea
    extenuate, mitigate, palliate
    lessen or to try to lessen the seriousness or extent of
    type of:
    defend, fend for, support
    argue or speak in defense of
  5. verb
    serve as a reason or cause or justification of
    “Your need to sleep late does not excuse your late arrival at work”
    synonyms: explain
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    exonerate by means of an alibi
    type of:
    justify, vindicate
    show to be right by providing justification or proof
  6. verb
    ask for permission to be released from an engagement
    synonyms: beg off
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    type of:
    bespeak, call for, quest, request
    express the need or desire for; ask for
  7. verb
    grant exemption or release to
    “Please excuse me from this class”
    synonyms: exempt, let off, relieve
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    exempt by means of an official pass or letter, as from customs or other checks
    type of:
    absolve, free, justify
    let off the hook
  8. noun
    a note explaining an absence
    “he had to get his mother to write an excuse for him”
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    type of:
    billet, line, note, short letter
    a short personal letter
  9. noun
    a poor example
    “a poor excuse for an automobile”
    synonyms: apology
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    type of:
    example, illustration, instance, representative
    an item of information that is typical of a class or group
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