Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


verb \ˈshrīv, especially Southern ˈsrīv\

Definition of shrive




play \ˈshrōv, ˈsrōv\


play \ˈshri-vən, ˈsri-\ or



  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 :  to administer the sacrament of reconciliation to

  3. 2 :  to free from guilt

  4. intransitive verb
  5. archaic :  to confess one's sins especially to a priest

Did You Know?

We wouldn't want to give the history of shrive short shrift, so here's the whole story. It began when the Latin verb scribere (meaning "to write") found its way onto the tongues of certain Germanic peoples who brought it to Britain in the early Middle Ages. Because it was often used for laying down directions or rules in writing, 8th-century Old English speakers used their form of the term, scrīfan, to mean "to prescribe or impose." The Church adopted scrīfan to refer to the act of assigning penance to sinners and, later, to hearing confession and administering absolution. Today shrift, the noun form of shrive, makes up half of "short shrift," a phrase meaning "little or no consideration." Originally, "short shrift" was the barely adequate time for confession before an execution.

Origin and Etymology of shrive

Middle English, from Old English scrīfan to shrive, prescribe (akin to Old High German scrīban to write), from Latin scribere to write — more at scribe

First Known Use: before 12th century

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up shrive? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a great number

Get Word of the Day daily email!