Wasn't Me: The Lingo of Laying Blame

No one will ever rebuke you for your improving your vocabulary, so learn these words that point the finger and go tsk-tsk.

Read the full article: Playing the Blame Game: Accusatory Vocabulary
Read more...

Start learning with an activity...

  • Practice

    Answer a few questions on each word. Get one wrong? We'll ask some follow-up questions. Use it to prep for your next quiz!
  • Spelling Bee

    Test your spelling acumen. See the definition, listen to the word, then try to spell it correctly. Beat your last streak, or best your overall time. Spellers of the world, untie!
  • Vocabulary Jam

    Compete head-to-head in real-time to see which team can answer the most questions correctly. Start a Jam and invite your friends and classmates to join!

Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. accusation
    an assertion that someone is guilty of a fault or offence
    The Prime Minister’s pulse quickened at the very thought of these accusations, for they were neither fair nor true.Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
    An accusation is a statement that says, "Hey, you did this! And this was bad!" You could make an accusation that someone stole your socks, insulted your grandmother, or stole your plans for an orbital death ray. When you make an accusation, you accuse someone.
  2. accuse
    blame for; make a claim of wrongdoing or misbehavior against
    The captain is accused of failing to assess the weather, steer the vessel appropriately and prepare the passengers for abandoning ship.Los Angeles Times (Sep 8, 2019)
  3. admonish
    scold or reprimand; take to task
    He was banished from the coast, and the sheriff was admonished to be more careful in granting passes for the future.Whymper, Frederick
    This is one of the less severe types of blaming in this list. When you admonish someone, you're giving them a light scolding or a mild pooh-poohing at most. The noun form is admonishment. If someone in a movie theater says — "Could you please put away your phone?" — that's an admonishment. If they say — "People like you are bringing about the fall of society, dooming us to live in a lawless society, like Mad Max!" — that's more of a denunciation.
  4. castigate
    inflict severe punishment on
    Prosecutors allege Martin jeopardized national security by bringing home reams of classified information even as, they say, he once castigated colleagues as “clowns” for lax security measures.Seattle Times (Jul 6, 2019)
    Castigate means "to reprimand in an especially harsh way." So, if you've ever been castigated, I'm sorry to hear it. Castigating is a hardcore version of the blame-and-shame game. It's miles beyond a simple admonishment. Like a lot of words, this one is first recorded in Shakespeare, specifically in Timon of Athens: "If thou did'st put this sowre cold habit on To castigate thy pride, 'twere well." In other words, "You should feel bad about being so full of yourself, dude."
  5. censure
    harsh criticism or disapproval
    The alliance was plunged further into crisis this month as Renault’s demand for a greater say in Nissan’s governance drew rare public censure by the Japanese automaker.Reuters (Jun 19, 2019)
  6. chasten
    censure severely
    Facebook won’t change on its own, but a chastening from Apple might be what the company needs to get its act together.New York Times (Jan 31, 2019)
    When you chasten someone, you chase them ten times. Just kidding. Chastening is a lot less fun than chasing, because you chasten someone for wrongdoing. A teacher could chasten you for talking in class. Your parents could chasten for you selling the dog to pirates. This word has a strong moral flavor to it, and you can also say you are chastened if you feel bad about misbehavior and won't do it again.
  7. chastise
    censure severely
    She recalled her mother chastising her for wearing earrings shaped like peace signs without bothering to learn what they represented.The New Yorker (Jun 6, 2019)
  8. chide
    scold or reprimand severely or angrily
    At an event in a low-ceilinged hotel conference room, the tour guide encouraged the visitors to sing a hymn in a local language, gently chiding them for not yet knowing the tune.Reuters (Aug 20, 2019)
    Chiding is a little less serious than rebuking, and a lot less official than reprimanding (see below). Chiding is closer to scolding and a little like nagging, and it can be passive-aggressive. Teachers and parents are great fans of chiding their charges. A chide could be, "You forgot to do your homework again?"
  9. culpable
    deserving blame or censure as being wrong or injurious
    "Ultimately our clients want justice and we will not rest until those culpable are held accountable."BBC (May 20, 2018)
  10. denounce
    speak out against
    Among the prisoners released by Russia was Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, whose conviction for preparing terrorist attacks was strongly denounced aboard.Fox News (Sep 7, 2019)
    This is a strong word for serious blame or disapproval. You wouldn't denounce your brother for eating the last cookie. Well, maybe you would, but generally denouncing is saved for more serious violations.
  11. denunciation
    a public act of denouncing
    The protests began as a revolt against a proposed fuel tax but quickly widened into a broader denunciation of inequality and a stinging critique of Macron’s mode of governance.Los Angeles Times (Dec 31, 2018)
    Denunciation is the noun form of denounce.
  12. disapprobation
    pronouncing as wrong or morally culpable
    Though the movie was subjected to a good deal of critical disapprobation, it was wildly popular.New York Times (Mar 30, 2018)
    Disapprobation, which has been around since the 1600s, is a noun for the state of total disapproval and condemnation. When someone does something immoral or unethical, the reaction will resound with disapprobation. This word means something very close to disapproval, and approbation is a lot like approval. Free cake would be greeted by the masses with approbation, but free poison cake would only receive disapprobation.
  13. implicate
    bring into intimate and incriminating connection
    Crown Prince Mohammed was implicated in the killing by United States intelligence officials and a United Nations inquiry.New York Times (Sep 5, 2019)
    To implicate someone is to suggest their involvement in something, and that something isn't usually a legal thing. This word comes up a lot in legal and criminal language. If someone is implicated in a bank robbery, they've been linked to it in some way. Implicate is related to imply, which means to suggest something without flat-out saying it.
  14. rebuke
    an act or expression of criticism and censure
    U.S. diplomats around the world often meet with opposition figures and groups, occasionally drawing rebukes from governments.Washington Post (Aug 9, 2019)
    To rebuke someone is to reprimand them, usually in an official, sometimes public, way. This word has been around since the 1300s, and its meaning can be similar to rebuttal. A rebuke is a rebuttal with some shame on top.
  15. reprimand
    an act or expression of criticism and censure
    They were issued with only reprimands, however, rather than grid penalties.The Guardian (Sep 7, 2019)
    A reprimand is a statement of disapproval, often an official one from a teacher, supervisor, or other person in authority. Parents blame children in many ways for many things, but they aren't likely to issue a reprimand, because a family isn't an official organization (unless it’s a crime family, I guess). Reprimands are statement of sins and transgressions that go in your official record, which could eventually mean suspension from school, loss of a job, or demotion in the military.
  16. scold
    censure severely or angrily
    “I told you to keep that shawl over your shoulders,” she scolds Lucinda.Before We Were Free
Created on September 8, 2019 (updated September 12, 2019)

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.