Apology, n.: (1533-1594)

        The OED tracks a cultural shift in the meaning of the noun, "apology," from "a defense or vindication" to "an explanation expressing regret for offense"  As with many loan words (this one from the Greek apologia), the borrowing language is free to shift its meaning to cover newly arising cultural needs.  Since the verbs "to defend" and "to vindicate" already had been successfully borrowed from Latin to speak for their EModE and ModE needs, the more obscure apologia began to be used more often to describe a speech uttered for actions which were, by implication, ultimately indefensible and regretted.  Why?  The reason might have to do with the re-socialization of the actions of offense and regret as the noble culture of the duel, and the commoner culture of fisticuffs and feud, became increasingly unacceptable in Modern culture.  A third path had to be found and named to thread the passage between a successful defense which countered the accusation of offense and the violent retribution which, according to noble codes of "honor" and commoner codes of "justice," must follow a successful demonstration that an offense occurred.  The result was the modern "apology."  Sidney was not "apologizing for poetry" in the modern sense, and someone apparently sensed the word's shifting implication of such an apology in the first title.

Const. (of obs.) for.

    1. The pleading off from a charge or imputation, whether expressed, implied, or only conceived as possible; defence of a person, or vindication of an institution, etc., from accusation or aspersion.

1533 MORE (title) Apologie of Syr Thomas More, Knyght; made by him, after he had geuen ouer the Office of Lord Chancellor of Englande. 1589 F. TRIGGE (title) An Apologie or Defence of our Dayes. 1650 BAXTER Saints' Rest I. v. (1662) 56 Now they shall both by Apology be maintained just. 1754 SHERLOCK Disc. (1759) I. iv. 165 And before the same great Court of Areopagites Paul made his Apology. 1796 BP. WATSON (title) An Apology for the Bible. 1850 J. H. NEWMAN Difficult. Anglic. 4 Apologies for various of the great doctrines of the faith.

    2. Less formally: Justification, explanation, or excuse, of an incident or course of action.

1588 SHAKES. L.L.L. V. i. 142 His enter and exit shall bee strangling a Snake; and I will haue an Apologie for that purpose. 1725 DE FOE Voy. round World (1840) 249 The consequence of those measures will be the best apology for my conduct. 1824 DIBDIN Libr. Comp. 58, I make no apology to the readers for the subjoined extract. 1855 PRESCOTT Philip II, I. III. vi. 385 To furnish an apology for his close confinement, a story was got up of an attempt to escape.

    3. An explanation offered to a person affected by one's action that no offence was intended, coupled with the expression of regret for any that may have been given; or, a frank acknowledgement of the offence with expression of regret for it, by way of reparation.

1594 SHAKES. Rich. III, III. vii. 104 My Lord, there needes no such Apologie. 1667 MILTON P.L. IX. 854 In her face excuse Came Prologue, and Apologie to prompt. 1692 RAY Disc. Pref. 14, I have in this Edition removed one Subject of Apology. 1754 CHATHAM Lett. iv. 21 If you are forced to desire further information..do it with proper apologies for the trouble you give. 1848 L. HUNT Jar of Honey x. 136 After many apologies for the liberty he was taking.

    4. Something which, as it were, merely appears to apologize for the absence of what ought to have been there; a poor substitute.

1754 Connoisseur No. 25 Waistcoats edged with a narrow cord, which serves as an apology for lace. 1858 C. MATHEWS in Life (1879) I. 1, Gibbon, the historian, was said to have had no nose at all, only an apology for one. 1874 FORSTER Dickens 120 To swallow a hasty apology for a dinner.