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Condemn vs. Condone: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 7, 2023
To condemn is to express strong disapproval or to sentence someone to a punishment; to condone means to accept or allow behavior that is considered wrong.

Key Differences

Condemn and condone are antonyms with meanings that place them in stark opposition to each other. To condemn is to express complete disapproval of something, often publicly; it is a statement or act that declares something, especially a behavior or action, to be reprehensible or wrong. Condone, by contrast, is to overlook or forgive undesirable behavior, essentially saying that it is acceptable or permissible, whether explicitly or implicitly.
The act of condemning can also have legal connotations, such as when a court condemns someone to a punishment, like imprisonment. Condone does not have a legal connotation; it’s used more in the context of social and moral behaviors. While condemning something is a declarative act of denouncing, condoning is often a passive action, where one fails to challenge or criticize something that others may expect them to reject.
For example, a government might condemn acts of violence or terrorism, asserting their stance against such behaviors. Conversely, if that same government takes no action against the perpetrators or fails to address the issue in policy or speech, it might be accused of condoning the violent acts, regardless of its stated position.
Furthermore, when one condemns a building, it is a declaration that the building is unfit for use, usually leading to its demolition. This is a literal application of the term and illustrates its severity. There is no similar literal usage of condone; it remains firmly in the realm of ethical and behavioral discourse.
In summary, to condemn is to judge something negatively and consider it unacceptable, often leading to punitive measures or ostracism. To condone, however, is to allow, accept, or continue without protest or censure, often implying a tacit approval or at least the absence of opposition.

Comparison Chart


Express disapproval or sentence to a punishment.
Accept or allow behavior that is considered wrong.


Negative judgement or formal denouncement.
Forgiveness, tolerance, or passive acceptance.

Legal Usage

Used in the context of legal judgement or sentencing.
Not typically used in a legal context.


Active and declarative.
Often passive or implicit.

Social Implication

Implies a call to action or change.
Suggests complacency or acquiescence.

Condemn and Condone Definitions


To sentence someone to a particular punishment.
The criminal was condemned to life imprisonment without parole.


To overlook or forgive an offense.
She could not condone her colleague's unprofessional behavior.


To denounce something, especially publicly.
The activist condemned the government's policies on environmental conservation.


To accept behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive.
The company does not condone discrimination of any kind.


To express strong disapproval of.
The council publicly condemned the destruction of the historical site.


To give tacit approval to a morally questionable act.
By staying silent, he seemed to condone their dubious business practices.


To declare something to be reprehensible or wrong.
He condemned the lack of support for the homeless in the city.


To allow or permit something, typically with reluctance.
The teacher condoned the student's late arrival due to the inclement weather.


To judge something as unfit for use.
The old factory was condemned and scheduled for demolition.


To implicitly approve something by failing to prevent it.
The administration was accused of condoning corruption.


To express strong disapproval of
Condemned the needless waste of food.


To overlook, forgive, or disregard (an offense) without protest or censure.


To pronounce judgment against; sentence
Condemned the felons to prison.


(transitive) To forgive, excuse or overlook (something that is considered morally wrong, offensive, or generally disliked).


Does condoning always mean agreement?

Not necessarily agreement, but it does imply acceptance or tolerance.

Are there consequences for condemning?

Yes, condemning can lead to social or legal repercussions.

Can condoning be unintentional?

Yes, it can be an act of omission, such as failing to speak against something.

Is condemnation always negative?

Yes, it involves disapproval or censure.

Can an organization condemn an action?

Yes, organizations often condemn actions they find unethical or harmful.

Is condemning always verbal?

No, it can also be a formal action or written statement.

Can society's standards condemn or condone behavior?

Yes, societal norms often dictate what is condemned or condoned.

Can a person condone their own behavior?

Yes, by justifying or dismissing their wrongdoing.

Does condemn imply a need for change?

Yes, it suggests that something should not continue as it is.

Can laws condone certain behaviors?

Laws can permit behaviors by not prohibiting them, which may be seen as condoning.

Are the terms condemn and condone used in legal documents?

Condemn is used in legal documents, but condone is not typically used in legal texts.

Can public figures condemn something effectively?

Yes, public figures often condemn issues to bring attention and advocate for change.

Does condoning require an active decision?

Not always; it can also be a passive acceptance.

Can someone condone something by doing nothing?

Yes, inaction can be interpreted as condoning.

Can an individual’s silence be seen as condoning?

Yes, silence can be seen as passive acceptance or approval.

Can governments condemn actions internationally?

Yes, governments often condemn actions by other countries or international actors.

Does cultural context affect what is condemned or condoned?

Yes, cultural norms and values greatly influence these judgments.

Is condemning a person the same as condemning an action?

No, condemning a person is more severe and personal than condemning their actions.

Is it possible to both condemn and condone at the same time?

It would be contradictory, as the terms have opposite meanings.

How can individuals show they condemn something?

Through protests, statements, or advocating for policy changes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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