To diminish the gravity or importance of an offense, fault, or crime; to underestimate, make light of, underrate.
Note: The present participle extenuating appears as a verbal adjective to mean to partially excuse, as in extenuating circumstances.
There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave…. It is vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God!—I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
—Patrick Henry Speech to the Virginia Convention Richmond, Virginia, March 23, 1775