Definition of atone
: to make amends : to provide or serve as reparation or compensation for something bad or unwelcome —usually + for He wanted to atone for his sins. “But I think that he has within him a capacity for love, and an unselfishness, which almost atones for his dishonesty. — Anthony Trollope
1 : to make reparation or supply satisfaction for : expiate —used in the passive voice with for a crime that must be atoned for
2 obsolete : reconcile
atone was our Word of the Day on 05/19/2013. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
Atone comes to us from the combination in Middle English of at and on, the latter of which is an old variant of one. Together they meant "in harmony." (In current English, we use at one with a similar suggestion of harmony in such phrases as "at one with nature.") When it first entered English, atone meant "to reconcile and suggested the restoration of a peaceful and harmonious state between people or groups." These days the verb specifically implies addressing the damage (or disharmony) caused by one's own behavior.
Origin and Etymology of atone
Middle English, to become reconciled, from at on in harmony, from at + on one
First Known Use: 1574
ATONE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of atone for English Language Learners
: to do something good as a way to show that you are sorry about doing something bad
ATONE Defined for Kids
Definition of atone for Students
: to do something to make up for a wrong … her grandmother watched over her with untiring devotion, as if trying to atone for some past mistake … — Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Seen and Heard
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