atoned; atoning

intransitive verb

: 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

transitive verb

: to make reparation or supply satisfaction for : expiate
used in the passive voice with for
a crime that must be atoned for
obsolete : reconcile

Did you know?

Atone has its roots in the idea of reconciliation and harmony. It grew out of the Middle English phrase at on meaning “in harmony,” a phrase echoed in current expressions like “feeling at one with nature.” When atone joined modern English in the 16th century, it meant “to reconcile,” and suggested the restoration of a peaceful and harmonious state between people or groups. Today, atone specifically implies addressing the damage—or disharmony—caused by one’s own behavior.

Examples of atone in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But because the Israelites atoned for their sin of idolatry, God forgave them and offered Moses a second set of tablets. Alesandra Dubin, Good Housekeeping, 22 Aug. 2023 Atlanta has a chance to atone with a home game against the Vikings, who will be trying to pick up the pieces after losing Kirk Cousins for the season. Eddie Brown, San Diego Union-Tribune, 31 Oct. 2023 Other countries have attempted to atone for a history of persecuting people as witches. CBS News, 31 Oct. 2023 Last year, Harvard University pledged $100 million to atone for its extensive ties with slavery. Thalia Beaty, Fortune, 9 June 2023 Moses destroyed the tablets in anger, but the people atoned for their sin, so God forgave them. Sofia Barrett, CNN, 24 Sep. 2023 Quarterback Eric McGehee, whose interception led to Har-Ber's first score, atoned for his mistake in the second quarter by hitting Elston with a 22-yard touchdown pass with 9:21 to play in the half. Kevin Taylor Special To Nwa Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas Online, 26 Aug. 2023 But the memo also tells the story of a grown man who spent his time behind bars trying to atone for the crime that put him there. Issie Lapowsky Abdul Kircher, New York Times, 15 Aug. 2023 Whitlock atoned, however, with five strikeouts in two innings of work in his second outing since returning from the injured list. Julian McWilliams,, 18 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'atone.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English, to become reconciled, from at on in harmony, from at + on one

First Known Use

1574, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of atone was in 1574


Dictionary Entries Near atone

Cite this Entry

“Atone.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


atoned; atoning
: to do something to make up for a wrong that has been done

More from Merriam-Webster on atone

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