Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Mea Culpa Definition:

Latin: I am guilty.

A confession of guilt or of fault.

Morwood suggests that the phrase has a theological origin:

"Mea culpa: through my own fault.

"A phrase from the prayer of confession in the Latin liturgy of the Church. Used more generally as an exclamation of repentance and as the name of such an exclamation.

"Also mea maxima culpa - through my very great fault."

Writing in the context of the right to remain silent, against self-incrimination, Jonathan Kaden used these words in his 1973 article:

"Mea culpa belongs to a man and his God. It is a plea that cannot be exacted from free men by human authority....

"Mea culpa is a Latin expression meaning a formal acknowledgment of personal fault."

Magistrate Baker of the British Columbia Supreme Court wrote (unfairly) in Bankruptcy of Langill:

"... mea culpas are often easily offered, and frequently hollow...."


  • Bankruptcy of Langill, 2006 BCSC 540
  • Kaden, Jonathan, Therapy for Convicted Sex Offenders: Pursuing Rehabilitation without Incrimination, 89 J. Crim. L. & Criminology 347 (1998-1999)
  • Morwood, James, A Dictionary of Latin Words and Phrases (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), page 113.
  • R. v. Boross, 12 C.C.C. (3d) 490-491 (1984)

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