Condone vs. Tolerate

What's the Difference?

Condone and tolerate are both verbs that involve accepting or allowing something, but they have slightly different connotations. Condone typically implies a more active approval or support of something that is considered wrong or unacceptable, while tolerate suggests a more passive acceptance or endurance of something that is disliked or disapproved of. In other words, to condone something is to actively endorse it, while to tolerate something is to simply put up with it.


DefinitionAccept or allow behavior that is morally wrong or offensiveAllow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one dislikes or disagrees with
ApprovalImplies a level of approval or support for the behaviorDoes not imply approval, but rather a willingness to endure or put up with something
AttitudeMay involve actively endorsing or excusing the behaviorMay involve a passive acceptance without necessarily endorsing the behavior
ResponseMay involve defending or justifying the behaviorMay involve ignoring or overlooking the behavior

Further Detail


Condone and tolerate are two words that are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. Condone means to accept or allow behavior that is considered morally wrong or offensive. Tolerate, on the other hand, means to allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of something that one dislikes or disagrees with. While both words involve a level of acceptance, the nuances in their definitions make them different in how they are applied.


When someone condones something, they are essentially giving their approval or support to it, even if it goes against their own beliefs or values. This can have serious implications, as condoning behavior that is harmful or unethical can lead to negative consequences. Tolerating something, on the other hand, does not necessarily imply approval or support. It simply means allowing something to exist or occur without actively trying to stop it.


The context in which condone and tolerate are used can also influence their meanings. For example, in a legal context, condoning a crime could be seen as aiding and abetting, whereas tolerating a crime could simply mean not taking action to prevent it. In a social context, condoning discriminatory behavior could be seen as endorsing it, while tolerating it could mean acknowledging its existence without supporting it.

Personal Beliefs

One's personal beliefs and values can play a significant role in whether they choose to condone or tolerate something. For example, a person who strongly believes in honesty and integrity may find it difficult to condone lying, even in certain circumstances. However, they may be able to tolerate it if they understand the reasons behind it or if they believe it is a minor offense.

Ethical Considerations

From an ethical standpoint, condoning behavior that is harmful or unethical can be seen as morally wrong. By giving approval or support to such behavior, one is essentially endorsing it and contributing to its perpetuation. Tolerating behavior, on the other hand, may be a more neutral stance, as it does not involve actively supporting or endorsing the behavior in question.

Social Impact

The social impact of condoning versus tolerating certain behaviors can be significant. When individuals or groups condone harmful or unethical behavior, it can create a culture of acceptance around such actions, leading to further harm or injustice. Tolerating behavior, on the other hand, may allow for a more nuanced approach, where individuals can acknowledge the existence of certain behaviors without necessarily endorsing them.

Legal Ramifications

In a legal context, the difference between condoning and tolerating behavior can have serious ramifications. For example, if a person is found to have condoned criminal activity, they could be held liable as an accessory to the crime. Tolerating criminal activity, on the other hand, may not carry the same legal consequences, as long as the individual did not actively support or participate in the crime.


In conclusion, while condone and tolerate are often used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings and implications. Condoning behavior involves giving approval or support to something that is considered morally wrong or offensive, while tolerating behavior simply means allowing it to exist or occur without actively trying to stop it. Understanding the differences between these two words can help individuals make more informed decisions about how they respond to various situations in their personal, social, and legal lives.

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