What Does Mea Culpa Mean? | Definition & Examples

Mea culpa is an interjection meaning “through my fault.” It can also be used as a noun referring to an admission of guilt.

“Mea culpa” originates from a prayer of confession in the Catholic Church, but it’s now used in a more general sense to admit that something was your fault or to refer to a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing.

Examples: Mea culpa in a sentence
Mea culpa! I accidentally broke your favorite cup.

The governor’s mea culpa in response to the financial aid scandal seemed insincere.

The magazine issued a mea culpa for their slanderous statements about the vice president.

“Mea culpa” is a term of Latin origin (like “ad nauseam,” “vice versa,” and “et al.”), but it has been used in the English language for hundreds of years, so it doesn’t need to be italicized as a more recent loanword would be.

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Frequently asked questions

What does “mea maxima culpa” mean?

Mea maxima culpa is a term of Latin origin meaning “through my most grievous fault.” It is used to acknowledge a mistake or wrongdoing. Mea maxima culpa is a stronger version of mea culpa, which means “through my fault.”

Mea maxima culpa is traditionally used in a prayer of confession in the Catholic Church as the third and most emphatic expression of guilt (“mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa”). Unlike mea culpa, mea maxima culpa is rarely used outside of a religious context.

How do I pronounce “mea culpa”?

Mea culpa has four syllables. It’s pronounced with emphasis on the first and third syllables: [May-uh-kuul-puh].

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.