culprit

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culprit •caret • Sanskrit • Prakrit •ferret, inherit, merit •egret • secret •dispirit, skirret, spirit •floret • pomfret • bowsprit •barbiturate •turret, worrit •culprit • floweret • Margaret •cellaret (US cellarette) •banneret, lanneret •hypocrite • preterite (US preterit) •Everett, leveret •favourite (US favorite) •interpret, misinterpret •basset, facet, tacet, tacit •Narragansett, transit •lancet •cresset, Knesset •exit • resit •complicit, elicit, explicit, illicit, implicit, licit, solicit •Tilsit • plebiscite • babysit • deficit •cosset, posset •Quonset • whatsit •corset, Dorset, faucet •gusset, russet •dulcet •tercet, verset •ashet • planchet • bullshit • Bastet •tomtit • bluetit

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culprit in the formula ‘Culprit, how will you be tried?’, formerly said by the Clerk of the Crown to a prisoner who pleaded Not Guilty; the accused XVII; (by assoc. with L. culpa guilt) offender XVIII. According to legal tradition, compounded of cul, short for AN. culpable guilty (cf. prec.), and pri(s)t ( = OF. prest, F. prêt) ready; it is supposed that, when the prisoner had pleaded Not Guilty, the Clerk replied with Culpable: prest daverrer notre bille, i.e. ‘Guilty: ready to aver our indictment’, and that this was noted in the form cul. prist.

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CULPRIT

An individual who has been formally charged with a criminal offense but who has not yet been tried and convicted.

Culprit is a colloquial rather than a legal term and is commonly applied to someone who is guilty of a minor degree of moral reprehensibility. According to sir william blackstone, the term is most likely a derivative of the archaic mode of arraignment during which upon a prisoner's plea of not guilty the cleric would say culpabilis prit, meaning "he is guilty and the crown is ready." The more common derivation is from culpa, meaning "fault or blame."

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cul·prit / ˈkəlprət; ˈkəlˌprit/ • n. a person who is responsible for a crime or other misdeed. ∎  the cause of a problem or defect.

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