A reprieve is a break in or cancellation of a painful or otherwise lousy situation. If you're being tortured, a reprieve is a break from whatever's tormenting you.

For some, a night at the opera is a night of punishing boredom during which the only reprieve is the intermission. For others, it's baseball that feels like torture. The seventh-inning stretch is the only reprieve from a night of endless waiting. Often, you'll hear reprieve used when a court or governor decides not to execute a prisoner. That prisoner is given a reprieve and will be allowed to live. He probably won't get a reprieve from prison, though, unless he's found innocent.

Primary Meanings of reprieve

postpone the punishment of a convicted criminal, such as an execution
the act of reprieving; postponing or remitting punishment
relieve temporarily
a (temporary) relief from harm or discomfort
Full Definitions of reprieve

v postpone the punishment of a convicted criminal, such as an execution

Type of:
defer, hold over, postpone, prorogue, put off, put over, remit, set back, shelve, table
hold back to a later time

n the act of reprieving; postponing or remitting punishment

Type of:
clemency, mercifulness, mercy
leniency and compassion shown toward offenders by a person or agency charged with administering justice

n a warrant granting postponement (usually to postpone the execution of the death sentence)

Type of:
a writ from a court commanding police to perform specified acts

v relieve temporarily

Type of:
deliver, rescue
free from harm or evil

n a (temporary) relief from harm or discomfort

Type of:
ease, relief
the condition of being comfortable or relieved (especially after being relieved of distress)

n an interruption in the intensity or amount of something

abatement, hiatus, respite, suspension
abatement of a fever as indicated by a reduction in body temperature
remission, remittal, subsidence
an abatement in intensity or degree (as in the manifestations of a disease)
the subsidence of swelling or other signs of inflammation (especially in a lung)
Type of:
break, interruption
some abrupt occurrence that interrupts an ongoing activity

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